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Education doesn’t stop at 16

How an introduction to coding turned one unemployed man’s life around and brought him back to school

By Richard Rolfe, co-founder of National Coding Week 

For many adults, the idea of returning to education to learn something new can be a daunting prospect. But for me, discovering a new skill later on in life, was the best decision I could have make. My new skill? Coding.

Not only is the world of coding a fun one to discover, it’s vitally important for our economic future. Despite having a digital economy worth £180 billion, there is a huge skills shortage in the UK. The government has now taken promising action to ensure that younger generations get up to speed in school, but where does that leave the rest of us, whose school days are now behind us? This is the question which led to the conception of National Coding Week – a UK-wide call to arms bringing together anyone who knows a little coding and allowing them to share it with others.

Coding is changing lives because there are so many opportunities to be seized. A great success story I came across was 28-year-old Brad Chellingworth from Jersey. I had a chat with him to find out how a brief period of unemployment kick-started a career change in web design. Brad had previously worked in a finance job for 10 years, but suddenly found himself unemployed last year – for the first time in his life. 

“Although I wasn’t to blame, I felt ashamed that I’d ended up in that position and that I hadn’t managed to find other employment,” Brad told me. “I think the worst thing is being labelled as unemployed. I was no longer ‘Brad defined by my skills’ but ‘Brad defined as unemployed’. I was just another unemployed jobseeker.” 

National Coding week gives everyone a little taster to see whether it’s something they might be interested in finding out more about. After taking up a one-day course in web design held by CodexDLD Brad said that he ‘instantly got the bug for coding’.

National Coding Week takes a ‘crowd sourced’ approach to sharing knowledge – with computer programmers, developers and digital professionals coming together to host their own workshops up and down the country in venues ranging from university lecture theatres to local tea rooms.

After just a few sessions, Brad really picked up the spark for coding and hasn’t stopped learning since: “I began coding whenever I could. I watched hundreds of YouTube videos and online tutorials.” 

Brad was sure that web design was the right career choice for him, so started working on learning the industry inside out, eventually securing himself a placement at a small tech company. 

Despite the fact he was a complete amateur and had been working in an entirely different sector just a few months before, the employer recognised Brad’s passion and, towards the end of the placement, offered him a permanent full-time position. 

“It’s absolutely fantastic to be employed once again. A year ago I didn’t think I would get a job and certainly not in a digital industry. I’m still studying every night and at the weekends, learning more every day. It’s a great feeling seeing your hard work pay off and I couldn’t be happier. Taking a coding course gave me the confidence to learn more. It changed my life.”

This satisfaction isn’t limited to just adult learners either. The teachers who have been involved in the project tell me that it’s filled them with a new passion for teaching. You don’t have to be an industry professional to get involved in National Coding Week We’re looking for teachers, students and local volunteers who have a keen interest in coding and would be willing to host an event during the week-long event. Most of all, we want to find those individuals who embrace the idea of learning being a two-way process regardless of age! 

To find out more, visit: www.codingweek.org/ or follow @codingweek.

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