These days, you need digital skills as a basic requirement to get ahead in the modern workplace. Coding is a great way to start - we are now getting ready for EU Code Week 2015.

I have just met some of the national ambassadors for EU Code Week, volunteers who give up time to promote coding in their countries. I was genuinely inspired by their passion for building on the success of last year's campaign, when more than 150,000 people took part in coding events in 36 countries in Europe and beyond.

Meeting Code Week ambassadors (with T-shirt)


So what's the idea? It is to bring together millions of children, teenagers, adults, parents, teachers, businessmen, policymakers – anyone and everyone - in events and classrooms across Europe to learn to create with code.

Computer programming is still widely seen as a skill that you can only master with a computer science degree. Given how many people today are connected to the internet and use online technologies all the time, we can't afford to take such a simplistic attitude any longer: it is out of date.

Coding is for girls and boys equally, both inside and outside schools – and for adults too, of course, whatever their walk of life.

Code Week aims to celebrate coding, the art and science of talking to computers - to show how you can bring ideas to life with code, make programming more visible, demystify the 'art of coding' and bring motivated people together to learn.

This year's event will be the third Code Week and run from October 10 to 18. As in 2014, several hundred events at least are being organised that will cater for all kinds of groups: from first-timer schoolchildren to advanced coders, people looking to learn a new skill for a future job, geeks wanting to write their own games software.

EU Code Week has attracted the support of coding and education movements like CoderDojo and RailsGirls, and of major tech and IT companies - all helping to bring coding to millions of children, for example by offering coding taster sessions, developing learning modules and helping to train teachers.

It is not just about building the next big mobile app. Computer programming is a fun and creative way of making ideas happen.

There is, of course, a serious side as well – because being able to talk to computers and understanding modern technology is a real competitive advantage.

These days, you need digital skills as a basic requirement to get ahead in the modern workplace. It is not just about reading and writing any more.

There are many young people who use the internet on a daily basis but do not have the full skills needed to convert this interest into an actual job.

In the near future 90% of jobs - in careers such as engineering, accountancy, nursing, medicine, art, architecture, and many more - will require some level of digital skills. Increasingly, that includes programming and basic coding skills.

Despite rapid growth in the ICT sector, creating some 120,000 new jobs a year – and despite high unemployment, especially among the young – Europe could face a shortage of more than 800,000 skilled ICT workers by 2020.

Why? Nearly 20% of Europeans have never used the internet and around 40% do not yet have adequate digital skills to fill these vacancies. It is a real cause for concern.

There is also a talent shortage as the education system is slow to react to new demands.

For example, more than 60% of nine-year-olds in EU countries are still taught in schools that are not digitally equipped. Between 50% and 80% of students never use digital textbooks, exercise software, broadcasts or podcasts, simulations or learning games.

Technology-based education should be a 'must have', not just a 'good-to-have', for all ages – which is why the European Commission supports and promotes campaigns like Code Week, to make learners fit for 21st century life and work.

So I would like to see more people, and especially young people, become interested in digital careers and show them they can be challenging, creative and rewarding – and fun.

Learning how to code is a great way to start.

Another blog soon.


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