Certain skills have always been necessary in the workplace; numeracy, literacy and time management, amongst others, are likely to remain top of the list for any employer for many years to come. However, the rise of the digital age means that new skills are becoming increasingly sought-after; digital skills such as coding are rapidly rising up the wish-lists of employers in a vast range of industries.
For many, the idea of coding brings up images of The Matrix – they picture screens full of incomprehensible symbols and numbers, endlessly scrolling past. They know, because they’ve been told by the genius before the screen, that this code is in fact a beautiful woman in a red dress, but they’ve no idea how this could be so. It might as well be magic.
This common lack of understanding is beginning to be seen as a disadvantage in business. Code is everywhere, from the HTML that runs even the most basic of websites to the more complex codes like Java and SQL that are used to create online apps and databases. A business that has no knowledge of coding has an increasingly frail foundation; they can’t directly control vital parts of their digital infrastructure.
Businesses that are built around an understanding of coding, particularly in the technology field, have a clear advantage over those that aren’t because they have a better understanding of what coding can do, and more control over those essential digital aspects of their business. Quite simply, knowing more means that they can achieve more. Because of this, in today’s tech start-ups coding knowledge is essential, to the extent that if you’re not a coder or a salesperson/marketer you’re seen as dead weight, making it the number one skill for tech entrepreneurs to possess.
Even outside the technology arena, coding skills can provide huge value to businesses; for example, if a business needs to analyse data (and few businesses can say they don’t) a single coder may be able to automate the process, saving the business hundreds of working hours that would otherwise have been dedicated to manual analysis. These days, most businesses, even small enterprises, are online – and access to coding skills provides direct control over the content and appearance of a website or online store.
The problem for so many of these businesses, of course, is that there is a digital skills gap in the workforce of today; research in 2013 indicated that 750,000 additional digitally skilled workers would be needed by 2017 to meet the demands of the growing economy. Compare this to the number of computer science graduates who left university last year – a mere 50,000 – and the need for these skills to be taught more widely is obvious. Whilst coding is now being taught to school children at an ever-younger age, it will take some time for those skills to filter up into the workplace.
On the other hand, this is excellent news for those who already have coding skills; this is one of the reasons that IT contractors are in such an excellent position in the current marketplace. Although larger businesses are able to invest time and money in training their employees, they still need to access skills like coding now; the obvious way to do this is to bring in freelance contractors. Similarly, small businesses that aren’t able to invest in coding specialists in-house are turning to contractors as the ideal solution.
Of course, while your skills are in demand you’re likely to find yourself busier than ever, so it’s vital that you don’t neglect essential aspects of your own business whilst helping others to build theirs. Contractor regulations can be complex, but at ICS we’ve had plenty of experience in helping skilled IT professionals keep everything in order. From an IR35 review to our contractor accountant services, we offer our own set of specialist skills to help you make the most of your contracting career. For more information, get in touch with us today on 0800 195 3750.