Retraining could help plug digital skills gap

Retraining people to become software developers is not only likely to help plug the skills gap but also create a more diverse talent pool in the tech industry, according to the founder of a coding bootcamp.

Chris Hill

Northcoders was launched by former Sky Bet software developer Chris Hill in 2015 from Manchester and this month it opened in Leeds.

Mr Hill told The Yorkshire Post that 35 per cent of people retraining to be software developers are women.

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He said: “Everyone is looking for a diverse workforce and they want to encourage people from different backgrounds to become software developers.

“The only way that that’s going to be achievable is by retraining people that already exist.

“Yes, young people can come through university and become software developers but everyone’s going to pretty much come from the same background.

“That’s not what we should be looking for in our workforce of the future.”

Coding bootcamp Northcoders has established a presence at the Platform building in Leeds city centre.

Since its launch in Manchester, Northcoders has trained nearly 300 people through 23 cohorts.

Mr Hill said that the average age of people coming to Northcoders is 28 but the coding bootcamps are open to everyone from those looking to retrain to college leavers.

He added: “We’ve had a few people from Leeds do our course. We work with a fair few companies in Leeds who hire our software developers.

“More and more people are wanting to do the course but it’s difficult to get over to Manchester and the companies wanting to hire more people so we just felt we needed a permanent base here.”

The founder of Northcoders says it’s “difficult” to retrain people but it’s “certainly possible”.

“We’ve had over 300 people now come out of the course and they’ve come from zero hour contracts in supermarkets, straight from college all the way through to lawyers that have just decided that they don’t want to continue working in that environment for the rest of their lives,” Mr Hill said.

The industry has made great strides in trying to plug the skills gap but the demand for software developers has continued to outgrow supply.

Mr Hill said: “The demand for people who are skilled software engineers and technically skilled people is growing far more than supply.

“More and more day-to-day things are becoming automated, becoming driven by computer programmes rather than manual processes. As that happens everyone is having to be more efficient and that’s the reason why the demand is outstripping the supply.

“I’ve spoken to people from these companies who are telling us that the problems are still exactly the same. We’re still where we were.

“They will have hired more people but they always need more people than the amount that they hire.”

Northcoders believes that it’s ideally placed to help plug the skills gap as it has the agility to change curriculum a lot quicker than universities.

“We can change what we teach in a matter of days,” Mr Hill said. “Whereas in universities it’s a matter of years.”

Mr Hill added that the organisation can help make coding more accessible than universities as the coding bootcamp runs for just three months.