80% of businesses plan to accelerate automation over the next five years, according to a recent WEF report.
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With the world rapidly becoming more tech-focused and data-driven, the importance of programming and other digital literacy skills will only increase.

According to a report by World Economic Forum in October, 80% of businesses plan to accelerate the automation of work processes over the next five years, while half are set to increase the automation of jobs in their company. At the same time, COVID-19 has created an urgent need for businesses to rapidly adopt online-first operating models as working from home becomes the norm.

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With programming skills becoming more essential to success, and with developers becoming the new hot item for recruiters, it’s little wonder that more people are looking to coding courses to supercharge their skillsets. Richard Wang, CEO of Coding Dojo, says monthly enrolments and applications hit “historic all-time-highs” throughout 2020, sparked by a combination of anxieties about the current job market, mass redundancies caused by COVID, and new opportunities created by the shift to remote working.

“Enrollment in educational programs typically rises during periods of economic hardship or uncertainty as individuals decide to invest in themselves and their futures,” Wang tells TechRepublic.

“I think with COVID-19, this has occurred at an even higher level due to people realizing the fragility of their jobs and the economy in general. Unlike most other economic downturns we’ve experienced, the impacts on jobs have been devastating across the board, not just a few specific industries.”

Coding Dojo has trained more than 5,000 developers since its inception in 2013. The company offers a series of coding bootcamps and online courses for people who want to pick up additional programming skills, or otherwise switch to a career in coding.

Wang, who joined Coding Dojo early in 2014 as CEO, believes fundamental knowledge of programming will be crucial to the workplace of the future – regardless of whether someone aspires to be in a tech role or not.

“More and more individuals are realizing that acquiring tech skills is key to a successful and stable career,” says Wang.

“Take a marketing rep, for example, who needs a landing page built for an upcoming campaign or initiative. They would likely need to draft the messaging, choose images they want to use and other details of the page, then ship it to their development team to build. Or, if they know basic HTML and CSS, they could build the page in real time as they gather the images, messaging, and so on.

“The result is the page gets built quicker, is designed exactly how the marketing rep wants it, and the development team can focus on other more challenging mission-critical tasks.”

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For young people, coding can help them rise through the ranks quicker, streamline their jobs, and upskill into higher-paying roles, says Wang. For remote workers, the same applies.

“It’s all about future-proofing your career,” he adds.

“Many jobs are already being, and will continue to be, automated, but machines will never be able to replace certain jobs. Humans will continue to be the organizing and driving force behind technology.

“It takes human intelligence to coordinate technological resources and direct those resources to solve business problems. Machines will just be carrying out instructions and it will be greatly beneficial to learn how to design and deliver these instructions.”

Low code not a catch-all

As displaced workforces shifted to home-based working this year, many businesses turned to low-code and no-code applications as a means of digitizing work processes without requiring additional programming resources, or to take on additional expertise.

Wang sees low-code, no-code as a “novel movement” that will help small businesses with digital transformation, though argues that it’s by no means a catch-all solution for digital transformation.

“While it can help with the speed of development and allocation of resources, LCNC (low-code, no-code) restricts customization of digital assets, has limited integration with existing core digital infrastructure, and depends too heavily on the LCNC vendors or platforms for configuration and delivering refined user experiences,” he says.

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“Medium and large enterprises will likely continue to opt for in-house, custom-built solutions due to the flexibility, customization, and integration that they provide. The existing development industry already has things like JavaScript libraries, pre-built frameworks, etc. So it’s already commonplace to not code everything from scratch.”

Indeed, for Wang, COVID-19 hasn’t so much changed the coding landscape as it has massively increased demand for those with the skills to enable this shift.

Research from Coding Dojo suggested that unemployment in the development space actually went down by around 15% between February and May – when unemployment in most industries was skyrocketing.

“The digital transformation that was required in the early months of COVID was astonishing,” Wang adds.

The biggest shift currently – and indeed in coming years – will be the rise of data science and AI/machine learning, says Wang.

All of these need digital infrastructure to run, and this will drive the demand for coding skills even higher than what we see today, he says.

“Just look at how much our society has changed from 2010 to 2020 due to technological advances. Now, imagine what society will look like in 2030. Automation will impact nearly every industry to some degree, there will be billions of IoT devices, and AR/VR will likely change how we interact with the world.

“The technology industry is always changing and it’s impossible to predict which new technologies will become common, and which will die off. Fostering curiosity and a passion to go outside your comfort zone will always be valuable attributes to develop so you can learn (or work with) new tools and platforms as needed.”