Computer programming and software development were the top choices for people looking to improve their employment opportunities in 2020, according to new research by Red Hat, with almost one in 20 adults taking up coding or some form of software development training last year.
A Europe-wide study of 31,100 adults found that just over half (51%) of respondents had picked up a new skill since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with coding being the most popular choice for improving career prospects.
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When asked about their motivations for upskilling, almost one in three (30%) reported employment-related reasons: either to kickstart a new career, learn a new skill for a future job, or job stability and security.
The results also suggested a large proportion of those learning to code were hoping to break into digital from another industry: of those who took up computer programming, 79% had not previously worked in technology and 71% did not hold a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degree, Red Hat found.
Of the new coders, less than half were working full-time (49%), with 11% unemployed and 10% working part-time.
Technology is one of few industries where employment seems to have been unaffected by COVID-19. As the pandemic forced people to work and learn from home, demand for automation, cloud and cybersecurity tools have skyrocketed.
Some businesses have been forced to bring forward their digital transformation plans by as many as four years. This has put highly skilled IT roles, such as DevOps, in high demand, and as such more prospective job-hunters have looked to software development as a means of futureproofing their skillsets.
Werner Knoblich, senior vice president and general manager at Red Hat EMEA, said: “If the pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that the future is digital. It’s heartening to see so many people taking up computer programming or software development as a new skill, particularly those from non-technical backgrounds.”
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Red Hat’s survey included more than 11,000 respondents from the UK. Four percent of UK respondents chose to take up coding in 2020, and, of these, more than two-thirds (68%) said their motivation to do so was driven by wanting to reskill for a new job or career.
The top five skills taken up by UK survey respondents for employment purposes were coding (or any other form of computer programming/software development), graphic design (62%), personal development courses, such as leadership or management courses (62%), academic courses (58%), and first-aid training (56%).
According to figures from the UK government last week, hiring in the UK tech sector is approaching pre-pandemic levels, with job vacancies reaching 116,000 in the first week of March 2021.
Data analyzed by Tech Nation on behalf of the Department of Digital, Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) revealed that 19,465 new businesses were registered in the UK tech sector between January and December 2020.
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