Despite all its lauding, simply learning to code may not guarantee a future career path, according to Australian PM and Shadow Minister for the Digital Economy, Ed Husic.
At a recent Australian Computer Society (ACS) meeting, Husic spoke on the adamance of many politicians in recommending children learn to code to address future changes in the job market. The assumption, he said, is that once we get everyone learning to code, that "everything is going to be safe."
Coding, however, isn't the end-all-be-all for meeting the needs of future job seekers, Jusic said. Advances in technology like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning will impact software development in a way that will make coding "good to know, but it's not going to be the safety hatch you all make it out to be," Husic said.
SEE: IT leader's guide to the future of artificial intelligence (Tech Pro Research)
Instead of just focusing on learning to code, Husic said that broader STEM knowledge and skills in problem solving and creativity should be what schools focus on. These wider skillsets could potentially allow future job seekers to more readily adapt to the impact of emerging technologies.
Coding itself has become one of the most in-demand skills in the world economy, which has lead many to ponder its importance to future generations. Apple CEO Tim Cook went as far as to suggest that "coding should be required in every public school in the world."
Coding camps and short-term programs have popped up all over the place to teach these skills and prepare students and adults for a career as a software or web designer. But learning to code might turn out to be only one piece of the puzzle.
A recent report from job site Indeed found that 80% of companies had hired a coding camp graduate, and all said they would do it again. But others have been more critical of such programs: A Triplebyte survey found that coding school graduates were good at writing clean code, but they struggled with understanding higher-level computing theory and algorithms, which will become increasingly important with the rise of AI and machine learning.
Another trend to keep in mind is the low-code movement, which allows business professionals to build apps through a drag-and-drop interface and often requires no coding whatsoever. That could lower the need for coding skills as well.
In addition to pushing politicians to think beyond encouraging job seekers to to simply learn to code, Husic also warned of the threat of AI taking over more creative jobs that were thought to only be doable by humans.
"I'll tell you what, once empathy is built into AI, what will that do to jobs?" Husic said. "There are now software and robots that are doing their own paintings or composing their own music." He added that it's "a big challenge longer-term, which I think deserves more and more thought."
The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers
- According to Australian PM Ed Husic, learning to code is not a career safety net that will guarantee you a job in the future.
- AI, machine learning, and the low-code movement will all impact software development, and change the skills needed by technology professionals to skills that will go beyond coding, he said.
- Husic also warned that AI could end up disrupting creative jobs in addition to manual tasks, and that more attention needs to be paid to that potential threat.
- Special report: How to implement AI and machine learning (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
- Learning to code is not a magic bullet: Husic (ZDNet)
- The Complete Machine Learning Bundle (TechRepublic Academy)
- The future of jobs: Automation technologies, robotics, and artificial intelligence (ZDNet)
- Video: Why AI-powered chatbots are the future of business (TechRepublic)
Conner Forrest has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.