In the New Year we will welcome our first apprentice into the team. Here’s why we’re doing this, and what we hope will happen.
First, there is a skills shortage in our industry. The skill that is lacking is the ability to code, and the passion to pursue development as a career. The traditional path to a career in development includes studying for a degree, followed by a period of training. (The training part sounds a bit like what would have been called an “apprenticeship” 100 years ago). True, there are still people entering the industry having followed this route, but not enough. The current emphasis on getting the young to “Learn to Code” proves this; the problem we have is the the current generation have not learned to code at School. They have done something called “ICT” where they have learned to use computers, not how to make computers work.
At the same time, successive governments in the UK have made going to University for a degree more and more expensive. (They have done this even when they have promised not to, but let’s let that one pass.) There are plenty of people out there who are intellectually capable of studying for a degree but who either fear a lifetime of debt, or lack the wealthy parents now needed. We believe the time is right to get these people into development. They have the brains, hopefully they have the aptitude. We will see.
Much has been written in Higher Education circles about the difficulty of teaching students to write programs. Some of this makes the quite valid point that attempting to teach programming by giving people lectures is a truly hopeless approach. Programming is a skill, and a skill is best learned by working closely with someone who already has that skill. We do not learn to drive a car by attending a series of lectures, after all! This alternative approach – sitting a novice programmer down next to a skilled programmer and making the skill transfer across – does sound rather like “apprenticeship” again, doesn’t it?
We’ll be welcoming Apprentice #1 on the 5th of January. We’re hoping he’ll be the first of many.