This Christmas, the best gift you can give your kids (or yourself for that matter), is an opportunity to learn how to code. In today’s competitive job market, digital literacy has become a highly sought after skill that virtually guarantees employability.

In its recent Salary Review for 2014, Career Junction found that Information Technology is one of the ten most popular industry sectors in the South African jobs market and that IT labour demand has continued to increase year on year. According to ITWeb’s Salary Survey for 2014, IT salaries continue to outstrip inflation, and managerial IT staff have enjoyed a 20% increase in pay since the end of 2013.

We are in the middle of a mobile Internet revolution. “Africa’s billion people are getting online faster than you can say ‘hit me on Whatsapp’”, says Elizabeth Gould, co-founder of codeX, whose mission it is to train 100,000 African developers over the next 10 years.

Twitter growth has been doubling in Kenya year on year and there are over over 70 million Internet users in Nigeria alone, so it is quite clear that we need to empower people with the skills to find African solutions to African problems” says Gould.

An inspiring example of how a technology solution has helped to solve a real-world problem in Africa can be found in Nigeria, where eHealth and Information Systems Nigeria introduced an Android app pre-loaded on mobile phones to help health workers fight the spread of ebola in that country. Health workers were able to report the onset of symptoms rapidly, almost in real time, and this instant communication channel coupled with real-time tracking via a database were key to Nigeria’s success in containing the outbreak.

As Gould says, “Imagine what problems could be solved in Africa once people are armed with the technological tools to solve them?” More importantly for her though, is the underlying problem she is bent on solving: How do you mentor local coders so that they “learn how to learn”?

How do people learn? Research undertaken amongst South African IT Practitioners, who were asked how they had acquired their skills, clearly indicates that ‘on-the-job experience or mentoring’ had the single biggest impact:

2012 JCSE ICT Skills Survey
2012 JCSE ICT Skills Survey

The JCSE ICT Skills Survey shows that practitioners prefer “skills acquisition through experience, supported by short courses that lead to certification (whether vendor-specific or not)”.

Programmers are in high demand across almost every business sector today and because of the critically short supply of skilled people, companies are often forced to outsource these jobs when they can’t find the in-house resources to do them. What the tech world needs more than ever before, is an effective way to bring more people into the sector and teach them the coding skills they need to meet the ever-growing IT needs of businesses today.

The codeX team works closely with companies who are actively looking for highly skilled and creative developers, and throughout their apprenticeship coders are challenged with real-world projects that solve real-world problems for these partner companies.

Learning while building projects for real companies not only allows students to gain the skills the job market wants in real time, it also gives them the opportunity to meet and demonstrate their abilities to potential employers while they are still studying. codeX offers students a safe space to experiment, take risks, and explore their own talents so they are ready to take on that great job offer at the end of the course, or to become tech entrepreneurs in their own right.

The gap between coding and hardware development is becoming ever smaller.
The gap between coding and hardware development is becoming ever smaller.

World-wide, the IT industry is seeing a growing adoption of Agile Methodologies, a way of working with teams to produce great results. Agile teams build and test products quickly and then constantly improve on them.

Such thinking is very much in line with the latest international trends, where more and more technological innovations result from spontaneous collaboration:

“Innovators need a creative space where they can work together in a multidisciplinary environment to develop their skills, generate ideas alongside like-minded individuals and progress on a journey of rapid innovation, where the elements of software development can come together and give birth to a program or unique application that can be developed into a viable business model and commercialised.” JCSE 2013-2014 Report.

Although there are a variety of academic programs in South Africa aimed specifically at graduates, there are very few coding courses specially designed for recent school-leavers who love everything digital, people who are bored with their current jobs and looking for a career change, or people who are drawn to the field, but are concerned that they have no previous experience in IT or coding? This is where codeX comes in.

To mirror the fast paced, ever changing IT industry itself, codeX creates an environment of “extreme learning” and “deliberate discovery”, where high levels of curiosity and motivation are expected from apprentice coders. Experienced coaches and mentors support the coders through their journey, teaching industry standard programming languages like Java, PHP, Python, and JavaScript, but also encouraging coders to discover the real world problems around them and explore new and innovative ways of solving them.

Guest author Kathryn Kure is a marketing analyst and passionate supporter of #teamcodeX, which is growing the next generation of African coders.

codeX believes that being a developer isn’t just about knowing different computer languages, it’s about learning how to figure out what problems are best solved through technology, discovering new ways to solve these problems and with the right levels of support and mentoring, learning how to solve these problems by doing.

codeX is recruiting now for the class of 2015, courses will run in both Cape Town and Johannesburg, and they are looking for coders who are bright, motivated and who want a chance to learn the skills that will secure them a successful career into the future.

If you fit the bill, apply now: http://goo.gl/QTbG8Q