But is the “learn to code” movement really the key to economic salvation for American job seekers and businesses? I don’t think so.
America has a problem, but coding academies might not be the best solution
There is unquestionably a talent gap in the U.S. today, with more than 223,000 job openings for software developers across the country, but fewer than 60,000 computer and information sciences degrees awarded each year. The average salary for software developers was $104,300 last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
As a snapshot in time, the figures are compelling. They’ve fueled a nearly evangelical “learn to code” movement that politicians and educators have touted as the holy grail to preserve American exceptionalism. In many circles, coding is viewed as the new literacy – an essential skill for anyone who wants to remain relevant and competitive in the workforce, along with other STEM subjects. Google, Disney, and Apple have all announced programs to teach kids how to code over the past year. Organizations like General Assembly and Girls Who Code are offering convenient ways to learn programming skills.
Coding boot camps are now a $266 million industry in the U.S., with the average program lasting 14.1 weeks and costing participants $11,400. In 2017, the boot camp market grew by 52%, to an estimated 22,949 graduates, up from 15,077 in 2016.
All of this is good news for American education, but it might not be a practical solution for U.S. businesses that need affordable and rapid application development.
4 reasons why the “learn to code” movement isn’t a magic bullet for U.S. businesses
The “learn to code” movement has been touted as the answer that American businesses have been waiting for, but there are a few reasons why this is short-sighted:
- Many people who enroll in coding boot camps don’t graduate, or they do but then find their 3 months of training aren’t enough to qualify them for open jobs.
- Businesses that are worried about controlling costs and keeping headcounts low are reluctant to pay the salaries that newly minted developers think they deserve.
- Although coding is a valuable skill in itself, what most companies need is people who first understand the business and its pain points and can then use their technology skills to solve specific problems. In other words, coding is an “add on” skill.
- Advances in no-code technology will greatly reduce the demand for coding skills in the years to come. Much of the custom programming work that high-priced developers used to do can now be accomplished by regular employees using “low code” or “no code” platforms. Increasingly, front-line employees can create their own mobile or desktop applications to automate repetitive tasks using wizards, drop-down menus, drag-and-drop components, and online tutorials. Like smartphones have made it possible for anyone to be a photographer, no-code platforms will soon make it possible for anyone to be a programmer – without knowing how to code.
It is this final point that may derail the “learn to code” juggernaut.
No one is saying software developers and engineers are going to become obsolete any time soon. Experts with traditional programming skills will still be needed to ensure the security, stability, and scalability of applications created by citizen developers. I’m also not saying that coding academies don’t provide a valuable education and produce qualified graduates. Many of them do. But the idea that programming is an essential skill everyone needs to learn is flawed.
“No code” and “low code” platforms can solve many business problems at a fraction of the cost of custom programming
Over the past few years, “no code” and “low code” platforms have been quietly transforming the business technology landscape. With simple, intuitive drag-and-drop interfaces, they empower front-line employees to create applications that automate repetitive tasks and make their own workflows more efficient – without writing a single line of code. Low-code and no-code platforms are much less expensive and can be deployed much faster than custom software developed from scratch using traditional programming languages. This type of rapid application development is especially helpful for small and mid-sized businesses that can’t afford to hire full-time IT staff.
One of the leading no-code platforms for citizen developers in the U.S. is Quickbase. Smart business users with analytical minds but no knowledge of any programming language can use Quickbase to build custom software that will help their whole team get more work done every single day. The following are some real-world examples of businesses using the Quickbase platform to manage data and maximize efficiency.
- A public relations agency uses Quickbase to track budget vs. spend on all their projects, monitor utilization of their employees and contractors, keep track of out of pocket costs, and prevent scope creep. The app was developed in-house by an accountant in the finance department.
- A lawyer with no programming knowledge developed a Quickbase app for the compliance department she managed at a financial institution. The app tracks compliance requirements, with internal and external due dates, and automatically routes information to the appropriate people within the organization at the right time for their review and approval.
- One of the leading real estate brokerage companies in the United Kingdom uses a Quickbase app developed by one of its agents to track every aspect of the business. New property listings are first entered in Quickbase and pushed out to property websites from there. Quickbase tracks properties throughout their lifecycle. Prospects, inquiries, appointments, sales, and commissions are all tracked in Quickbase.
- A manufacturer of drone aircraft uses Quickbase to keep records of its models with their bills of materials. The app maintains a continuous inventory of parts and makes it easy for them to reorder parts from suppliers at the optimal time and quantity. The app was conceived and developed by a mechanical engineer responsible for the parts, not a programmer or someone in I.T.
The potential of rapid application development is endless … for human resources management, event planning, medical practice management, inventory control, you name it. Any organization that keeps records and needs to do things with those records will benefit from adopting a no-code platform like Quickbase.
And Quickbase isn’t the only game in town. Betty Blocks, OutSystems, Mendix, and others have their own strengths that make them excellent choices for many use cases.
By and large, these platforms are simple enough that users can learn to make apps with minimal help by following the tutorials provided. But for businesses that want to deploy them across departments or train employees how to create apps most effectively, following best practices, consultants like Watkyn LLC are always available to help.
To discuss how rapid application development using a no-code platform like Quickbase might help your business, you can reach Phillip Dennis at (954) 900-6690 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.