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Coding: The must-have job skill of the future

In the Oscar-nominated film “Hidden Figures,” Dorothy Vaughan (played by Octavia Spencer) works at NASA as an unofficial supervisor over a group of “computers” women who performed mathematical calculations long before electronic computers became commercially available. When she learns an IBM 7090 is being installed, she immediately understands the ramifications. She and her co-workers will soon be obsolete.

Ever entrepreneurial, Vaughan teaches herself and her co-workers Fortran, a programming language developed by IBM for scientific and engineering applications. Rather than being given a pink slip, she is given a promotion and ensures her and her employees’ job security.

In much the same way, today’s worker is having to reinvent himself and herself. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, web development ranks among the world’s fastest-growing professions, with jobs projected to increase at a 20 percent annual pace through 2022.

The opportunities for skilled developers have long passed the labor supply: of more than 150,000 new openings posted each year, some 50,000 go unfilled. In Georgia, the median salary for web developers is $64,970, with some earning as much as $116,620 a year.

According to Glassdoor, eight of the top 25 jobs in 2016 were technology positions, and an increasing number of businesses are relying on computer code and automation.

In 2015, there were as many as 7 million job openings that required coding skills, a sector growing 12 percent faster than the market average. The demand is strong in Savannah, too, as The Creative Coast’s job board regularly advertises several job postings for web developers and web services managers.

As a result, having coding in your skillset means you can command a higher salary; jobs requiring coding skills pay up to $22,000 more, on average. For students looking to increase their earning potential, few other skills will provide as much as this well-paying career.

But, more than likely, the next generation of coders will not look like Mark Zuckerberg.

While most people associate Silicon Valley with high-paying, high-tech jobs, the Bay Area city only employs 8 percent of the nation’s coders.

The other millions are working in health care, automotive manufacturing and sales, marketing, banking and even coal mining. The value of coding is learning how to use data to drive decisions, and big data requires computer coding, not a calculator.

In fact, coding is taking over traditional industries because the essence of artificial intelligence is crunching numbers to find the most efficient and effective way of doing a task.

Employers in Savannah are no different. They are already looking for programmers – people who can build websites, develop software and apps. We must prepare for the workforce of the future in order to attract and grow technology companies that require this talent.

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Dustin Sparks is the course instructor for Georgia Tech-Savannah’s Coding Boot Camp, a 24-week program that gives participants the skills they need to create front and back-end web applications, a highly sought-after skillset. He can be reached at pixelmixer@gmail.com or 765-760-3900.

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In Case You Missed It