As digital transformation initiatives accelerate, so too does the intensity with which employees attempt to acquire coding and digital literacy skills. For example, IDC data forecasts that the population of part-time developers, defined as professional resources who perform development-related work even though they do not have the job title of developer, will increase with a CAGR that significantly exceeds that of their full-time counterparts. Examples of part-time developers include storage engineers, database developers, data scientists and business analysts.
An important subset of part-time developers is the set of LOB developers, defined as LOB professionals who perform development-related work and practices in an effort to improve the quality of their professional work. According to IDC developer research, the growth of LOB developers will outpace part-time developers because of the rapid maturation of low-code and no-code development platforms. In addition, the growth of the LOB developer population will be driven by the urgency of business needs to introduce more digitization, analytics and automation to the business processes and workstreams managed by LOB professionals.
This increase of development-related skills on the part of LOB developers is also attributable to the rapid maturation of an educational ecosystem that democratizes access to development-related education. Now, more than ever, anyone interested in learning to code can do so from the comfort of their personal laptop by means of online courses.
While the ecosystem of online courses, video content and tutorials provides LOB developers with a rich set of options for acquiring development-related skills, the broader question about development-related education is whether contemporary needs for development skills require a more radical transformation of our educational infrastructure and curricula. Put differently, does the contemporary need for technology and development-related skills require the infusion of coding-related education more deeply into the education of high school and college students?
The need for LOB developers to acquire development skills is illustrative of a labor force that failed to acquire coding and application building capabilities during their formative educational
years. Today, the pace of digital transformation is such that even business professionals need to acquire development skills to understand how processes are being digitized and to what degree. As such, U.S. high schools and universities would do well to rethink how best to educate an aspiring workforce that requires a heightened degree of digital literacy and skills for all graduates, and not just for those who plan to become professional developers, engineers, scientists and mathematicians.
One way for U.S. high schools and universities to empower graduates to design and build digital solutions is to foreground the use of educational platforms that offer students the ability to develop and refine capabilities to design and build digital solutions. This may involve platforms other than the famous Microsoft Office Suite of applications or Google Apps, its analogue. In other words, students would do well to have the opportunity to build digital solutions that simulate classical physics, cellular biology or inorganic and organic chemistry. Similarly, students of literature can use digital platforms to perform analytics on textual objects, either by means of sentiment analysis or otherwise by custom, correlative analytics that empower students to understand how a particular literary trope or character either remains intact, changes or performs something in between.
To engage in problem-solving activities in an era of rapid digitization, high school and undergraduate students will need access to reinvented educational platforms that encourage analytical and creative thinking using a new generation of applications and tools. All this means that the gauntlet has been thrown down to contemporary technology companies to reinvent and redefine the platforms used for the education of a digital workforce. This hardly means dispensing with the arts and humanities, but rather, providing new digital infrastructures on which students can solve problems and express complex ideas across a wide range of academic disciplines. In their ideal incarnation, this new breed of educational platforms will foster more transdisciplinary and creative thought in addition to cultivating the skills required to build digital solutions with fluency, speed and sophistication.