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There is a shortage of tech skills in the UK. A UKCES Sector Insights report predicts that by 2022, 518,000 additional workers will be needed to fill the roles available in the digital arena. This is three times the number of Computer Science graduates produced in the past 10 years. Engineering graduate supply falls well short of demand and employers and developers alike are finding new ways to adjust to each other's expectations.

In the latest Developer Ecosystem Report, we’ve explored how the new generation of developers adopts a more flexible approach to learning and how employers can sustain their professional development.

What does the education of the new generation of developers look like, and how can employers appeal to them?

There's never been a better time to be a software developer

Developers are at the forefront of the revolution in education. The industry has never been more accessible and there are countless opportunities for people to learn how to code.

Although the majority of developers have some level of formal education (42% of developers have a bachelor's degree and 27% have a master's degree or Ph.D.), more and more are adopting new ways of learning.

Did you know that 49% of developers in the UK and Ireland have taken an online course?      [  Tweet This  ] 

Since they first entered the scene nine years ago, MOOCs (massive open online courses) have profoundly changed the education landscape. Despite some resistance from public educators, MOOCs providers like General Assembly, Coursera, and Udacity have successfully helped thousands of adults pursue a new skill or career. This is particularly true in the sector of Engineering and Technology.

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Who participates in these courses?

"Adults looking to pursue a new skill or career", says Jake Schwartz, Co-Founder and Chief Executive of General Assembly. People either enroll to improve their current job, find a new job or to achieve an academic goal. It offers flexibility, the possibility to focus on a specific set of skills and MOOcs and bootcamps providers focus on adapting their teaching to the expectations of employers.

When it comes to software development courses, participants can be developers who want to perfect their skills, or individuals who want to become developers without a formal computer science education.

What can companies do to appeal to this new generation of developers?

  • Answer to the desire for lifelong learning

Developers love to learn. In fact, 87% of UK and Ireland respondents to our 2017 UK & Ireland Developer Hiring Landscape said they "agree" or "strongly agree" with the statement "learning new technologies is fun.”

“Companies must recognize that lifelong learning is an imperative, and develop career pathways that ensure that their workforce is constantly building new skills and taking on new challenges”, says Schwartz.

Professional development sponsorship can take many forms, but it is always a commitment from the employer to foster leadership, career development, and advancement for his employees.

Tech teams are eager to continuously broaden their skills and share with the developer community. As we found out in our latest survey, 38.7% of developers prioritise jobs that offer professional development sponsorship.

In practice, it translates into fulfilling the need for development and education support of your tech teams. Allocate a training budget that lets them participate in conferences and meetups, maintain extensive in-house capabilities for continuing education.

  • Hire for skills, not degrees

 When asked what companies can do to attract successfully the new generation of developers, Nicolas Dittberner, Regional Manager at Udacity, says, “Hire for skills, not degrees.”

Being a successful developer is more about your achievements than it is about extra lines on your resume. When asked what they think of education, 37% of current professional developers in the UK and Ireland said their formal education was 'not very important' or 'not at all important' to their career success. This is not entirely surprising given that 94% of UK developers overall consider themselves at least somewhat self-taught: a formal degree is only one aspect of their education.

At Stack Overflow, we're advocates of not systematically asking for a Computer Science degree under the Education section of your job offers. Let the good candidates come to you, whatever their education is, and let them show you what they're capable of.

  • Work on your employer branding

Your employer brand is essentially an ad for your company, and developers expect to see things that can be very different from different roles. See our employer branding guide for practical tips you can start using right away!

'Attracting talent is storytelling. Make it interesting. Training is remarkably similar. Demonstrate how impact could be delivered, and do so in digestible units' says Daniel Kroening, CEO of Diffblue and Professor of Computer Science at University of Oxford.

How does this impact you?

It's clear that a Computer Science degree no longer dictates the quality of the programmers you’re hiring. More people than ever before are entering software development from non-traditional education backgrounds. 

So if you’re demanding a Computer Science degree - or any other type of degree - you’re really limiting the pool of talent you can be attracting, especially when it comes to the developers who are newly entering the profession.

To attract and retain the best tech talent, keep in mind that you must foster the talent of your Engineering team and offer continuous learning opportunities. You will have more interesting candidates, your tech team will feel valued, and they'll learn new skills along the way that will benefit everyone. 

education and new generation of coders


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