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Education Programming

The Case For the Blue Collar Coder 233

theodp writes "U.S. tech talent shortage discussions tend to focus on getting more young people to go to college to become CS grads. Nothing wrong with that, writes Anil Dash, but let's not forget about education which teaches mid-level programming as a skilled trade, suitable for apprenticeship and advancement in a way that parallels traditional trade skills like HVAC or welding. Dash encourages less of a focus on 'the next Zuckerberg' in favor of encouraging solid middle-class tech jobs that are primarily focused on creating and maintaining tech infrastructure in non-tech companies. Dash also suggests 'changing the conversation about recruiting technologists from the existing narrow priesthood of highly-skilled experts constantly chasing new technologies to productive workers getting the most out of widely-deployed platforms and frameworks.'"
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The Case For the Blue Collar Coder

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 08, 2012 @08:23AM (#41583651)

    That's all well and good until you find out they've been using floating point for currency calculations, and they can't figure out why their bubble sorts are so slow.

    I've worked with programmers with associates degrees. Some bad; some good. I'm not entirely against them, but I would not want an entire team made up of them. They have huge blind spots that CS grads don't have.

  • by Big Hairy Ian ( 1155547 ) on Monday October 08, 2012 @08:25AM (#41583669)
    Been in the business for over 20 years now. The only issue I have makes getting jobs difficult as too many companies wont touch you without a degree.

    BTW The closest my school had to Computer Science was a couple of Commodore Pets and a maths teacher who thought all that was involved with CS was logic. Ah well where there's a geek there's a way :)

  • Of-course (Score:4, Interesting)

    by udachny ( 2454394 ) on Monday October 08, 2012 @08:30AM (#41583697) Journal

    I have been arguing this [slashdot.org] for quite a while [slashdot.org], there should be more apprentices and fewer university graduates with insurmountable debt, however this is not going to happen given the labour regulations, tax incentives, even inflation. All of these prevent jobs from appearing. A businessman doesn't need an incentive to hire people, his incentive is to make more money, it exists already. What he needs is not to have incentives to do things that are not actually useful to him. A business could have a bunch of apprentices, if it was possible to pay them a very low wage. As things stand (never mind the inflation, which kills savings and jobs), the labour law makes it illegal to hire people below minimum wage while still allowing to have students as 'apprentices' who have to work for free. All this does is incentivizes the kids to go to higher education, where they don't actually need to, while working for free as apprentices, while getting deeper and deeper into debt. Instead the kids must be able to skip school entirely and learn the trade at work making a little bit of money, that would give them an incentive to show up and do the work, while not getting into debt and learning the skills. This is something that businesses have always done before governments screwed this up.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 08, 2012 @09:00AM (#41583901)

    I was a hard core cross-platform, client/server C/C++ developer for over a decade. Basically, I wrote code for every platform except VAX. Before that, I wrote code for an extremely specific embedded space craft system and after that, I became a systems architect, software architect and enterprise architect.

    Writing code in the real world is very different from learning to code in the class room. For small, trivial projects, like 90% of web sites, a community college coding trained person can be re-trained to be useful and productive. I teach at a local "commuter university" ... that feels more like a community college to me. The vast majority of students are confused by anything that is not memorization, but a few are brilliant and could easily compete at Stanford, MIT, GA-Tech, and similar tech-centric schools. These are the students that I try to help.

    If the others don't switch to different majors, they will be flunked out after 2 yrs.

    The lack of talent for software isn't really true, but talent wants to be paid better than average salaries and they want better environments.

    I stopped coding because coding was only $75/hr (about $150K/yr) and I could earn $200+K/yr as an "architect." Wouldn't you switch too?

    I also stopped coding because the schedules were always too tight - usually completely unrealistic for the tasks and I was tired of working 80+ hrs per week.
    As an architect, my work week became predictable - usually 40-45 hrs/wk. So, I'm working fewer total hours, more predictable hours, I have a greater input to system design and outcomes, and my true hourly wage $/hr is much, much higher .... only an idiot would remain as a coder given those choices.

    Coding is entry level for most people. Average people will eventually see their positions replaced by younger, cheaper entry level coders. Moving up and out of coding becomes necessary if you want a longer career in software or computer technology. There is always room for truly talented software people ... the top 5-10%. Many of those people, like me moved on to have more impact, more control and a much better lifestyle.

    I miss coding, but I don't miss all the other aspects. As a coder, anything I wrote ... anywhere became the property of the company according to the employment contract. As an architect, that wasn't included in the contract. My hobby coding was mine. Another reason to leave coding.

    I forgot to meantion, I went free-lance as an architect and bumped my pay plus I get 3+ months off a year. Usually I travel.

    So, if you want "coding talent", the environment needs to change to be much more flexible, greater control over work schedules and time off.

    Perhaps I've just been lucky. Perhaps my "talent" lies in being an architect, not with software development?

    Perhaps I'm just a troll here pointing out how great it can be after leaving the coding daily grind.

    One last thing - certain very popular languages have completely destroyed the software development as an art progression.
    * Java - 90% of these developers are clueless. They really believe that the OS and physical machine don't matter. Idiots.
    * Php - I learned to code by reading a book group. People that only learned php have become the destroyers of solid software development. The entry barrier became too low so that almost any idiot could get something working. There's a big difference between working, and working well AND securely.

    I don't want to say that all php or all java programmers are idiots. There are some true experts and arteeeeests using those languages. It is the masses who program in those languages that are a waste and should be flipping burgers somewhere for the safety of the world.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 08, 2012 @09:14AM (#41584049)

    "U.S. tech talent shortage discussions tend to focus on getting more young people to go to college to become CS grads"

    THERE IS NO TECH TALENT SHORTAGE. What there is, is disinformation about what one needs to really
    know to really program. Plenty of unemployed and students out there who have figured this out.
    But they are blocked out of the market by both employers, employment agencies and state unemployment offices
    who don't have a CLUE as to the nature of the skills needed and have created a ridiculous artificial set
    of evaluative criteria.

    In addition, there are brilliant programmers out there with no degrees or associate's degrees or liberal arts degrees.

    Also, you do NOT need calculus to program or be a software engineer.
    You do NOT need Dykstra.
    You do NOT need to know how to write a compiler.

    There is no "Blue Collar".... there are competent skilled programmers, reasonably skilled ones, screw-ups, and Ivy League graduates with big degrees who would not last a 10th of a second in real world programming. I know, I've worked with all of them.

    There is one key JOB REQUIREMENT in this field. The ability to deal with the unknown, to learn and to adjust. Period.

    Reading and communication skills are paramount too. Above all else.

    From a retired Software Engineer of 32 years experience

  • Same old whine (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 0xdeadbeef ( 28836 ) on Monday October 08, 2012 @09:42AM (#41584361) Homepage Journal

    Beware anyone who calls your profession a "priesthood", because he operates under the assumption that he is entitled to more than you, is either jealous or contemptuous of your market salary and wants to put you in your place. For whatever reason our culture regards doctors, lawyers, stockbrokers, and CEOs as deserving the benefits of scarcity, but it is a huge problem when you can't you hire a computer nerd for less than six figures. If you aren't an extrovert, you don't deserve to be on top of the status hierarchy.

    We already have vocational technology education, but it's widely regarded as a joke. Putting it in high school isn't going to change that. And if you have the knack for it, learning programming or learning computer maintenance is easy. After all, every time the subject of college degrees come up, there are always people very adamant that they didn't need one, and that "the best people I know didn't go to college". So if it is unnecessary, why are they arguing for "blue collar" programmers? These people argue "nature" in one breath and then "nurture" in the next. Dash is actually saying that the self-educated or non-degreed don't deserve to be considered "white collar" professionals.

    Dash also makes the mistake of conflating programming with "IT", something the Slashdot peanut gallery is also apt to do. I'll leave that stupidity for a different flame war.

  • by blind biker ( 1066130 ) on Monday October 08, 2012 @09:53AM (#41584493) Journal

    All developers, programmers, researchers - we're all blue collar. People working in administration and accounting are considered white collar.

    As a scientist, I don't feel insulted to be "blue collar". I'm fine with that.

Things equal to nothing else are equal to each other.