It’s hard to escape the hype about coding. With the new national curriculum for computing now in place and tech entrepreneurs in the news almost daily, it’s clear that we’re in the midst of a technological revolution. But for young people who have never imagined themselves as programmers, it’s not always easy to see what advanced computing skills can contribute to a CV.
Young women especially might have trouble picturing themselves in the traditionally male-dominated tech industry. For parents, preparing children for careers that didn’t exist when they were making decisions about their own careers is a difficult ask.
Tech skills open doors to all sorts of careers
The good news is that coding and computing skills are relevant in just about every field. Young people who learn to code might end up working as Web developers or software engineers, but they could just as easily apply their skills to fields like journalism, finance and sport. Most industries are in need of skilled tech professionals and, so far, demand is outpacing supply.
Young people who do want to work in tech will have a wide range of options. Careers are remarkably varied and some of the most crucial roles still aren’t receiving enough attention. For parents with children fascinated by security and cyber crime, for example, there are a whole raft of opportunities available. Maintaining a flow of skilled staff into cyber careers involves starting work with young people as early as possible.
As Niel McLean, Head of Education at The Tech Partnership, says:
"There are lots of different jobs in cyber, from technical roles such as ethical hackers to more general roles such as consultants. Cyber is a growth industry; this means there are more jobs than people going into them and because of this, young people who choose to work in this area are guaranteed interesting, well paid careers across any industry. Wherever we rely on computers, there’s a need for cyber security."
Many young people do not realise that a career in IT will not restrict them to a particular industry or job type. Cyber security in particular impacts all industries, from fashion to football, and all of these will rely on cyber professionals to protect their assets.
New initiatives inspire young people
There are lots of resources for parents trying to figure out how to help their children learn about tech careers. The Secure Futures campaign was built in collaboration with the Chief Information Officers of some of the country’s most influential organisations including the BBC, Royal Mail and the National Grid to provide information about careers in cyber security. Other organisations worth checking out include General Assembly, Little Miss Geek and Code.org.
Three tips for helping children discover careers in tech
1. Talk about their favourite technologies
In today’s digital age, most young people know that tech can be used to connect with friends, play games, make movies and more. Ask your child to think about the role computing plays in everyday life – who designs the tech they use and how does it work? Getting them to think about the magic behind their favourite apps and devices might help them imagine a wider range of career possibilities.
2. Relate it to their other interests
Pursuing a career in tech doesn’t mean giving up on your other passions. You can use computer skills in just about any field, so talk to your children about how computing might be relevant to their interests. If your child has always been artistic, for example, you can help them research what it takes to become a Web designer. If they’re mad about sport, let them know that some universities are now offering degrees in computing and sports studies.
3. Check out a code club
If your child has already expressed an interest in computing, help them get started by finding a code club for young people. Many are free, so even if they’re not quite sure what to expect there’s no harm in checking it out! Code Club and Fire Tech Camp are good places to start.
Rhian is Programme Manager at e-skills UK for Secure Futures; working with some of the UK’s biggest businesses and organisations, from the BBC to the Met Police, to get to the heart of the country’s cyber needs. In collaboration with these organisations, along with educators and students, she built classroom resources for the Secure Futures campaign.