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Tech apprenticeships to improve developer shortage

The tech talent shortage isn't just a U.S. problem. "Developer vacancies are very difficult to fill in Europe, too," said Steve Millidge, founder of U.K.-based C2B2 Consulting and Payara, a GlassFish support provider. "It's absolutely the same."

In the U.K. and elsewhere, the developer shortage is serious enough to get governments involved. For example, Payara has opened tech apprenticeships for those who are participating in a national tech education program.

"Education is the key to the solution," said Millidge in a video interview with SearchSOA at the JavaOne 2015 conference in San Francisco.

Payara is one of many firms joining the tech apprenticeship program. Launched at the end of October, the British Intelligence Higher Apprenticeship in IT is a two-year program designed to replace a university degree. Overall, more than 60,000 people have enrolled in U.K. engineering apprenticeships.

Tech apprenticeships are just part of the education equation in the U.K. In 2014, the government launched the "Year of Code," which was a nationwide effort to get everyone from primary schoolers to senior citizens coding. Children from ages five to 16 were given coding instruction in school, starting in September 2014, and there were events around the country over the last year aimed at getting everyone to at least understand the basics of coding.

Tech apprenticeships and other developer education programs are far more common in Eastern Europe, where STEM education has been promoted dating back to the days of the Soviet Union. The end result in countries like the Ukraine is that anyone who wants to become a developer can, and oftentimes for free, according to Irina Kovalyova, marketing officer for Kyiv, Ukraine-based outsourcing firm Redwerk.

In the United States, President Barack Obama launched the TechHire Initiative earlier this year, which aims to bring not-for-profit coding schools, employers, students and teachers together to get more students on a path to technology jobs, including software development. U.S. CTO Megan Smith spurred that initiative and also urges developers to consider working for the government in organizations like Code for Change and 18F.

An option for those who'd like a bit more of a do-it-yourself solution could be the free to very-low-cost code depository GitHub. GitHub's director of field services, Matthew McCullough, has suggested employers and individuals could use the resources in GitHub to jumpstart coding education.

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Does your enterprise incorporate tech apprenticeships?
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We do have internships, as well as a mentor program, and we work closely with the local community college on a large capstone project each year.
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I guess the problem sometimes is that internship is approached very formally, especially in the large organizations. There are managers who are into mentorship and there are managers who just want to score higher. I know some interns that were very motivated by their experiences and some that didn't feel good about.
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Apprenticeships are a good first step, but they can’t be the only step. It’s going to take a grassroots effort on the part of the business, education (both primary and secondary), as well as the parents of the children that are going to be filling these positions.
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Mentorship and apprentice models within organizations, I believe can go a long way to helping build the next generation of experienced developers and testers.
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Mentorship solves more than just a hard skills shortage problem. Mentor - apprentice partnership is what allows for retaining of the spirit and culture in the organization.
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As long an the apprenticeship gets the right mentor to help them with the specific needs of the company. The apprentice may not reach their full potential if left on their own. Every organization functions differently. Basic skills they may have will only take them so far. 
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Sure, awareness and education are key to getting people interested in software development but you cannot make someone enjoy computer science if they're not interested. This is not unlike the societal debate over college. I'm of the belief that not everyone needs to go to college. There are as many personality types as there are fields of work and I think people end up exactly where they want to be.

The market will work itself out. Either more people will be attracted into the field through awareness, education, or the lure of good money OR we'll have a shortage of developer skills and the law of supply and demand will rise to the challenge. People already in the field will be called on more, and thus, earn more. Also, the increased demand will result in more streamlining, perhaps automation, of the software development function. I think we'll be just fine, as long as security is continued to be baked into the process. ;-)
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Thank you Jan for an interesting article. It is really thought-provoking. More and more people want to become a developer and try to change their current profession and become a coder. And there is nothing strange about that. The job of a developer is hard, but interesting and they have a good income according to statistics. All those coding schools, camps and employers give a great impact to further development and future progress. New technologies give new possibilities.
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