We’ve already talked about Europe’s “skills gap” in the past. Despite achingly high jobless rates, employers in the EU are nevertheless struggling to find enough qualified candidates to fill positions in the high-tech sector. Some estimates suggest that Europe will face a significant shortfall of almost one million ICT professionals by 2020.

Despite this, education systems in Europe have actually registered a decline in computer science graduates since the crisis struck. Furthermore, half of all ICT students in Europe are graduating from just three countries: France, Germany and the UK.

We’ve put together some facts and figures about coding and employment in Europe in an infographic below (you can click the image for a bigger version).

Skills gap

What practical steps should be taken to close Europe’s skills gap? Traditionally, coding is seen as a difficult subject that you have to be a genius to understand. Obviously, this can be off-putting for prospective students, who might prefer to study something easier to learn. However, in a previous debate we had several coders tell us that coding is not that difficult a subject to learn.

Still, are there ways to make coding even easier in future? We had a question sent in from Alexis, a student from Finland, who wanted to know if “easy-to-learn” coding programs could make coding less difficult for absolute beginners.

We put this question to Simon Peyton Jones, a computer scientist and British EU Code Week Ambassador, to see how he would respond:

We also put the same question to Mercedes Diaz, an ICT consultant and EU CodeWeek Ambassador for Belgium. She says that what Alexis is talking about is not the future, because it’s here already:

However, we got a very different answer from Bastien Guerry, a French EU CodeWeek Ambassador and tech entrepreneur. He said coding will always be hard, but we shouldn’t be worried about that. He argues that children can enjoy hard challenges if they start learning a subject early enough, so we shouldn’t be too focused on making coding easier:

Finally, as we’re talking about how coding might change and develop in future, is there a chance it could be replaced entirely? We had a question along these lines sent in from by Alen from Slovenia, asking if programming could be rendered obsolete by another, perhaps completely new, skill?

We took this comment to Julie Cullen, a teacher and Irish Ambassador for EU Code Week:

Julie-CullenI think that coding will be around for a long time. I think it’s a new literacy – it’s like reading and writing. Even though we have computers to do it for us these days, we still need to learn to read and write, and I think that’s the same for coding. It’s true that technology is developing, but I think we still need to know the basics and it’s very important that we know how to tell a computer what to do.

With employers struggling to find enough coders to fill jobs, how can more Europeans be encouraged to learn coding? Will coding become easier to learn in future, as more “easy-to-learn” coding programs are developed? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Coder Dojo Firenze


24 comments Post a commentComment

What do YOU think?

  1. catherine benning

    Make education free. It was, once upon a time. However, billionaires didn’t like that, they want illiterate idiots who will slave away for a pittance and that is not the expectation of an education human being.

    As someone else hinted at on another post.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6DvWHu5E3U

    • crayven

      It’s not just in the Uk. Everywhere a trend towards “pay2play” is growing.

  2. S.K

    But seriously coding should be taught at primary school level instead of something like music, look I like music as much as everyone else but only very few people can become successfull musicians, but everybody that learns coding and that undertsands it can potentially get a good paying job in IT.

    • S

      These jobs are good paying because there’s high demand and few professionals. If everybody learns it, they’ll soon drop the salary levels.

    • Gustav

      Music education is not to teach people to become successful musicians. Music education teaches pattern recognition, creativity, timing, and several other important skills. If you approach each subject taught as “will it land me a job” the population will get dumber and dumber over time.

  3. George Yiannitsiotis

    Coding without fundamental education is nonsense. Philosophy, History, Mathematics, Music and Arts, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Geography are the foundations for sufficient coding experts.
    Privatization (among others) of education will create in Europe the same problems as the USA has confronted decades ago (low indigenous education => import of brains from other countries with strong public education schemes)
    Think of them!

  4. Rui Jamp

    Result of poor European rules, that give to privates and take away from public services, while people pay more and more taxes… Very simple

  5. EU reform- proactive

    Yes, one will be more competitive with a “new fashioned” coding population who can code, manipulate, talk with & use these modern languages- in comparison to the “old fashioned” folks. Hopefully in that process, they will not have become too cybernetic, “illiterate” & forgotten the ancient human skills to communicate, think (normally), read, write or express themselves with fellow humans.

    As always, old skills been overtaken by new ones. Chimney sweeps, lantern lighteners & even mechanical calculators became extinct. Why not accelerate, select & encourage those who are interested & gifted in coding to help with robotics & automation! The rest of all other professions need to adjust and learn to apply these new technologies and use them to their best advantage in their own industries. Wished, I could code to beat Wall street, the Banksters & the Casino’s!

    The incentive of job security and future 900,000 new posts in the ICT- STEM industries should have been already translated into syllabuses/courses by the education departments for adoption to safeguard Europe’s global leadership role.

    Which country & their politicians are/will be the quickest out of the stating blocks to supply this demand? Unfortunately, electronics/gadgets have a short life span- which is a big & costly nuisance!

  6. mary oakley

    HI start a coder dojo club in every community to teach young people from the age of 6 upwards coding skills, It’s done on a voluntary basis and run by experienced IT mentors at no charge! We have a community of about 5000 and our club is running about 18 months, but we have 100 children attending our coding club every Saturday.

  7. catherine benning

    This article gives an example of why Europe simply must take up the responsibility to educate these people inside our borders to enable them to fill the work offered to them in order for them to have a decent standard of living. Coding or whatever they need to make the employable is really how our tax money must be spent.

    Dragging in uneducated welfare drains from outside the European borders without proper control or returning them to where they come from is not sustainable. So to make those already here able to function is the way to go. It is therefore the duty of all 27 States parliaments to work on this matter as a priority. And it should be free. To expect the poverty stricken to pay for education is a stupid US idea that simply does not benefit anyone. No business can afford to take on workers who are illiterate. And lets face it, they can’t even clean for work as they simply do not know how or what is expected of them even at that level.

    Germany must realise this fundamental fact and get out of the foolish politically correct idiocy they are driving from. Otherwise Europe as a union is going to fail and disintegrate. And surely they don’t want that? If Britain leaves the disruption it will create is not a card to play with.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2835423/We-ll-never-fully-control-borders-EU-says-Hammond-Foreign-Secretary-admits-Britain-s-desire-avoid-destabilising-movement-migrants-incompatible-membership-EU.html

    This woman and her man are only partly responsible for their predicament, as, they have not been educated at all to be able to function properly in a civilised society with certain expectations being placed on their capacity be useful.

  8. crayven

    I am amazed how we are forgetting about the generation hit and RUINED by the 2008 crisis.
    They are unemployed and without hope, laid off and without resources to reacquire new skills.
    The EU should offer THEM the chance to learn coding. These people are in their 30s, so still able to learn. What?
    Do you think that these people jsut magically will go away like that?

    People born in the 80s and 90s that are now in their 30 and 20 are the MOST affected and a study done recently shows that if we do not address this these people will be FOREVER in trouble struggling to jump from crappy job to crappy job.
    What – the hell !

    • Bogdan

      I am not in the category but you are totally right !!!

  9. Jurgis

    Still, not clear how many of demanded ITC jobs need coding?
    Is it the “proffesionals”? Because network admin can be proffesional but still don’t need coding…

    • Tibi

      A good network admin needs a lot of coding skills. Scripts are nothing but code, and they help you automate the jobs you are doing.

  10. Karen T

    As done in Estonia, Denmark and now the UK (England) as of this year…start integrating coding and respective ways of thinking as a cross-cutting requirement in primary school. We need to be teaching digital literacy just as we do literacy and numeracy.

    Additionally, inclusion within public primary schools would enable a future coding enabled and inclusive manner of delivery, whilst equally from an educational perspective the generation of creators for our future generations and not mere consumers.

    Naturally, this would require systemic and deep structural(physical and mental) changes: teacher training, inservice support, school leadership and vision, support and development networks and national policies…but it is achievable as is being demonstrated by good practices out there.

  11. Kostas Karolemeas

    It is not just a matter of scarcity of developer resources. In a few years computer literacy will be about programming and processing information and not just word processing, spreadsheets and browsing the Internet. We should start from kids. Not only the 10+ year olds but younger ones, too. Even those in the 1st grade of elementary school. Not only the “elite” that is very familiar with technology and might eventually become programmers but ALL of them!

  12. Jiri

    Because this system is wasting programmers very much, using them for creation of every possible s***, abusive cheating misleading tricks, thousands of same pages which look different, spamming and bothering pseudo marketing artificial crap, etc. And the most talented professionals, so called “hackers” will never join this system as it is.

  13. nando

    Coding is not the answer or the problem! Problem solving skills is the answer and the problem!
    System admins, application programmers, systems analysts do not do much coding. Support people do not do much coding. Stating the problem as a coding skills problem does not reflect what is really necessary!
    On the other hand, coding is not complex. What is complex is problem solving and most schools do not teach problem solving. They teach “exam passing”.
    – To solve an immediate problem one should share ICT skill acquisition and costs between schools and enterprises.
    – To solve a longer term problem one needs “problem solving” skills to be taught at all school levels ad stop this “exam passing” misguided obsession.
    Engineer, ex-coder, ex-systems manager, ex-ICT-manager,
    ‘nando aidos

  14. Nando Aidos

    Coding is not the answer or the problem! Problem solving skills is the answer and the problem!
    System admins, application programmers, systems analysts do not do much coding. Support people do not do much coding. Stating the problem as a coding skills problem does not reflect what is really necessary!
    On the other hand, coding is not complex. What is complex is problem solving and most schools do not teach problem solving. They teach “exam passing”.
    – To solve an immediate problem one should share ICT skill acquisition and costs between schools and enterprises.
    – To solve a longer term problem one needs “problem solving” skills to be taught at all school levels ad stop this “exam passing” misguided obsession.
    Engineer, ex-coder, ex-systems manager, ex-ICT-manager,
    ‘nando aidos

  15. Deep

    What one/two programming languages one should start to learn has not been discussed.

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