With more and more technologies, jobs in IT are almost always in demand. However, despite a curriculum that supposedly teaches pupils how to use a computer, there’s still a lack of people with the appropriate IT skills for completing the fundamental challenges facing modern businesses. This is one of the few sectors that always finds it difficult to find skilled employees and build a capable workforce (not to say that those already in the field aren't already very talented).
If you’re fresh out of school or looking for a career change, you should consider learning to code or developing your IT skills.
There are plenty of educational establishments offering computer science and computer programming courses to help beginners and those starting from scratch become systems engineers, programmers, or web designers.
Can you learn to code and become an IT tutor without a degree in IT?
How can you give private tutorials in IT without IT qualifications?
Is Learning the Fundamentals of Programming Languages without a Qualification an Insurmountable Challenge?
Even if you can completely teach yourself about computers, learning programming is a different beast altogether. In fact, you might struggle to find a job in IT without the appropriate qualifications in programming. Most employers prefer that their staff have the appropriate qualifications for these kinds of jobs.
Additionally, teaching yourself about computers requires an enormous amount of motivation. School isn’t entirely pointless, after all. It allows you to gain the necessary knowledge and skills that jobs in IT require.
On the other hand, it's easy to learn coding and become a programmer or a web developer without having an A Level in IT. A Levels are not the only way to learn about computers. There are many different ways. In fact, there are places where you can get free or cheap IT lessons to help you .
It doesn’t matter whether you’re 16, 30, or 50, a career in IT will welcome you with open arms. You can also call a private tutor to help you or to teach you everything you need to know about computers.
If you'd like to learn how to code but are an absolute beginner in need of an introduction to computer science, the BBC has a useful site (although it’s no longer updated) for those just starting out with computers. In addition to its WebWise course that teaches the basics of using computers and the internet, there are also links for those studying IT and computing at GCSE or Standard Grade. There are also links to other useful resources on how to program and programming concepts.
There are links to resources on web design, programming, the government’s own programmes for digital literacy, etc. While a lot of these resources are free, you can expert to have to pay for some of the more professional resources.
With IT, computers, and programming all being things you do on your computer, it’s no surprise that you can learn a great deal about them from your computer.
You should consider checking out MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) for classes on programming and coding and Codeacademy, in particular, which incentivises students by awarding them badges. Unlike universities, these courses are for everyone and it doesn’t matter if you have a GCSE or A Level in IT or not.
This is arguably the most famous MOOC for learning more about IT. The site was founded by Zach Sims and Ryan Bubinski after Sims dropped out from Columbia University to focus on the platform.
The platform quickly grew and now has several million users. It probably won't matter which programming language you want to learn to program in, there are 12 languages with interactive activities for you to do on Codeacademy.
Of course, as with most MOOCs, the numbers can be a bit misleading as the number of students who actually finish each course is very low. Only a third of those who “enrol” on a Codeacademy course actually finish it.
This isn't because the courses are bad but rather because people sign up to courses because they can or on a whim. A lot of people sign up to introductory classes and never finish them. These numbers may also be skewed due to the fact that a lot of users mightn’t complete every exercise on a given course because they’ve already learnt what they need to know.
While Codeacademy is free, there is an option to pay for it which comes with benefits such as added support. This support includes personalised learning plans, more advanced quizzes, realistic projects, and help from advisers.
This is a great option for those whose schedules are too varied to regularly schedule a class.
With Codeacademy, you can do the activities, exercises, and coding courses whenever you feel like it. You can also start and stop courses as you please.
If you only need to learn the basics of a given language, for example, you can do those modules and then move on to another language. It’s a fantastic tool for those wanting to bolster their IT skill set.
The only problem is that the badges probably won’t sway an interviewer’s mind.
Learn Programming Skills with Coursera
If you need an introduction to programming, Coursera is another MOOC that you should consider looking at. While it doesn’t focus solely on programming and IT (there are a huge variety of different courses taught), it’s worth mentioning for those wanting to gain some valuable IT skills.
Although the courses are free, you’ll have to pay if you want an accredited certificate for them. Some of the courses on Coursera are even offered by some of the world’s most prestigious universities including Washington, Michigan, Toronto, and Stanford.
Signing up is really easy, too. You sign up to Coursera in the same way you would to any other website. Once you’ve got a user name and password, you’re pretty much ready to go and start learning.
This is great solution for people who prefer a university-style approach to learning without the tuition fees that come with it. For those looking for a career change, it’s a useful way to learn in your own time and at your own speed since unlike a traditional course, you have a lot of flexibility when it comes to doing the work and studying.
Free Code Camp
Free Code Camp is a more social option than some of the others suggested in this article.
Did you know that learning programming could save the world?
The special thing about Free Code Camp is that it works by teaching users how to code and allowing them to use that coding knowledge to code for non-profit organisations.
Learn how to build a web app and how to write code
Learn how to integrate user interfaces
Learn how develop apps
Develop Java and web development skills
Work towards a new career in IT
Learn how to solve real problems and complete tasks under deadlines
The practical experience is what really sets Free Code Camp apart from some of the other examples given in this article. While the other platforms may be better in terms of theoretical knowledge, you can’t put a price on the experience you gain from really developing a solution to a given problem.
You’re completely free to follow the tutorials if you want. Otherwise, you can just start playing around with the code you’ve learnt. On a personal note, I regularly have this site open for help with HTML and CSS and have found it to be an absolute life-saver.
With so many different ways to learn IT skills and how to programme, you really haven’t got an excuse!
You can gain valuable IT training and skills without having to attend university. You don’t even really need to have an A Level in IT or computing. It’s a sector with a seemingly never-ending demand for employees and free resources for those willing to put the time in to gain the required IT skills.
With sites like Codeacademy, W3Schools, Free Code Camp, and Coursera (not to mention all the other MOOCs), you’re spoilt for choice.
Of course, since these sites require you to work a lot on your own, you should make sure that you’re motivated before embark on a course. Otherwise, you may as well not bother.
If you're a tutor, you should find out more on how to plan an IT tutorial!
Your turn to chime in: how useful is an education in information and communications technology?