Technology is changing virtually every aspect of our lives in this mobile, hyper-connected age. It's easy to see why, when most of us carry at least one device with us at all times and we literally have an app for everything.
With such fantastic growth, it's not surprising there's a real need for people with technology talent to help fuel continued innovation - especially people with coding skills, who can develop the apps that are so important in our modern world.
This isn't a new issue, but it is one that gets more pressing as we continue to rely on technology. And I believe that with the advent of what's being called "the fourth industrial revolution" we really need to prioritise solving this issue of ensuring there's enough skilled tech talent.
One of the biggest challenges, in my opinion, is that many people don't even consider a career in tech, because they may have preconceived ideas about what the industry is - and who is best placed to forge a career in the sector.
And for many of those without a traditional academic focus, I think that the technology industry has the potential to seem completely out of reach. Some may feel they lack the required skills and don't know how to get them, or think that they wouldn't be suited the roles because they're not 'good with computers' or struggled with maths at school.
Yet I strongly suspect that a job in technology would suit hundreds, thousands - even hundreds of thousands! - more workers than those who currently are in tech. In fact many of the people I work with didn't originally plan a career in technology, but they gave it a try when a job opened up at a company they liked, or were excited to work with previous colleagues at a new company. In many cases, they found they loved it and made a career of it.
But changing perceptions is only part of the equation. We also need to improve access to learning in order for more people to consider tech. On this front, fortunately, we're making good progress.
Free, online courses like those from MIT, Code Academy and Khan Academy are now springing up, offering a flexible learning experience for skills like programming and computer science. There's also CoderDojo and Hour of Code to help get kids excited about coding. I especially love resources like Code Racer, which completely gamifies the learning experience, so it's fun and engaging. In fact, we've taken a similar approach with our Trailhead programme, which literally lets anybody learn developer skills needed to build apps on the Salesforce platform. People earn badges for successfully completing challenges - so it feels very rewarding, like winning a game.
The 'open to everyone' aspect of all of these initiatives is vital to their success. You don't need maths A-level or even amazing maths GCSE grades to do them. You don't need to have prior experience of working in the tech industry, or even any work experience for that matter. And you don't need to be particularly interested in computers either - you just need a willingness to learn and a desire to create something.
These kinds of educational resources also let people learn at a flexible pace - providing skills that can change a person's life without disrupting their current one. Further, ensuring the learning experience is fun helps dispel the notion that the tech industry is only for serious 'super geeks.'
The bottom line is that programmes which are free and only require access to a computer or tablet have the potential to open up the tech industry to people from all walks of life. And, if the pace of innovation is to continue across the region, we must ensure the technology sector is comprised of a large and diverse talent pool.
Further, coding is a great career for anyone who wants flexibility and work/life balance. Coding languages are universal, and often, companies are more than happy to have employees work remotely. It lends itself to project work as well, which is ideal for people who want to test it out before starting a fully-fledged career or land a "side gig." In short, it's ideal for anyone, at any stage of life.
If you have a curiosity about programming, an interest in technology, a love of learning, or just a desire to take on a new professional challenge, I would encourage you strongly to check out the free training resources available - and look to technology as a potential future career opportunity!
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