The job market has undoubtedly taken a hit over the past months. A rapidly rising cost of living has been followed by a wave of layoffs from global companies at the end of last year, including Google, Meta and Amazon. There could be more to come. Although unemployment is not at worrying levels right now, those still in work are feeling anxious about whether their jobs are hanging in the balance.
Many will be assessing the increasingly choppy employment waters, wondering if they are prepared for its worst effects. One perhaps surprising consequence of the current economy might well be a new wave of workers looking to pick up tech skills in order to future-proof themselves.
This wouldn’t be the first time workers have taken measures to up their prospects in a difficult economic period. The concept of the “coding bootcamp” emerged in 2011, from the ashes of the 2009 financial crisis, with those hit by that spike in unemployment learning tech skills. At the time, with 8 per cent of British adults unemployed – the highest point this millennium – that hirer’s market forced much of the workforce to rethink their approach. Looking to change careers, or stand out from the competition, workers flocked to coding bootcamps to reskill or acquire the digital competencies needed to find a good job.
Now, as we stare down the barrel of another global recession, we can expect a similar trend, and growing demand for courses in the tech skills that will define the next decade.
It’s easy to forget just how quickly the global technological landscape, and its role in our daily lives, can shift. When the first coding bootcamps opened, Spotify had just launched in the UK, and the iPhone 4 had just been released. Twelve years, or thirty iPhone models later, social media and streaming have become totally integrated into our lives. As it did in the last period of economic hardship, tech will continue to rapidly advance. Although companies are trimming their budgets, there will still be a growing need for skilled tech talent to build for the next decade.
As we experience this digital revolution, we must be conscious that some jobs available now are not guaranteed to be around in five to ten years’ time, with PwC predicting that 3 per cent of jobs will be automated by the early 2020s. The jobs of the future may seem inconceivable to us now. Those preparing to take the plunge of a career change will need to contemplate what roles will still be in demand.
Macroeconomic headwinds like the recession we’re experiencing have always driven people to adapt. The dot-com crash of 2002 saw a temporary shift away from programming and a drop in enrolment for computer science-related degrees. The modern world is now far too digitised for that to be the case, and tech-qualified professionals will have the edge in this era of budget cuts and automation.
Where there are jobs, the workforce will follow. Even in tough times, well-paid roles will be on offer to support our advancing digital economy, but people will need to learn the right skills for this decade. A few years from now, we might well look back on 2022 and 2023 as the time when this great reskilling began.