At a time when the Internet of Things and intelligent automation is transforming the technological landscape around us, engineering is becoming a multi-skilled profession.
Mechanical and industrial design is increasingly being combined with electronics and computer science. By 2020, analyst firm Gartner predicts that more than 20.4billion objects will be connected to the Internet of Things (IoT).
So do engineers need to know their html from their Python to survive?
Chris Horn, MD at CAD reseller NT CADCAM, says in an increasingly digitally dependent world, having a basic level of tech literacy has become a critical part of doing business. “By nature, engineers are problem solvers and having an understanding of multiple disciplines such as coding can only be beneficial.
“However, the Tech sector, as with engineering, is facing a massive skills gap as well as a massive gender imbalance. While we have more women working in core STEM roles than ever before , in engineering the figure for women still languishes at 8 per cent (while in tech roles only 17 per cent are women). By not having women in these roles we leave out half of our population from being decision makers in key global industries.”
In three years’ time, it is estimated the UK will need another one million tech workers . To encourage more women into the tech sector, award-winning social enterprise CodeFirst Girls
has been set up to help more women to learn to code.
Philippa Tucker, head of communities at CodeFirst Girls, says: “CodeFirst Girls is all about allowing women to feel they can be part of the tech conversation. By demystifying what coding is, we can increase gender diversity in this sector and ensure there is a talent pipeline to meet the skills gap.”
Currently, CodeFirst Girls has provided £2.5 million of free coding courses to more than 3,500 women in the UK. Its Alumni Wall of Fame
makes inspirational reading, highlighting women who have used their new-found coding skills to switch into tech roles, become fully-fledged developers or set up their own start ups.
Entrepreneur Emily Brooke completed coding courses with CodeFirst Girls before launching her company Blaze, which uses technology and design to create smart lights for urban cycling. And after completing her first CodeFirst Girls course, Grace Copplestone, went on to graduate with a Masters in Manufacturing Engineering, working as a product manager making humanoid robot faces and more recently as a mechanical and robotics engineer for NASA in California.
Philippa says: “All sorts of people from a variety of backgrounds are saying they wished they had learnt coding earlier so they could talk to tech people in their team, or, having done one of our courses, they apply for a more technical role and it takes them onto a new career path. It’s not just about learning to code, it is the wider application of being able to understand other peoples’ roles in a company that will be essential for future generations. As well as allowing women to feel they can be part of the tech conversation.”
Now in its fifth year, CodeFirst Girls runs a wide reaching array of coding-related courses and events. This month, its annual conference (#CFGCONF17) is aimed specifically at its community of women who are interested in technology and entrepreneurship. Up on the agenda for discussion are the ethics of artificial intelligence, drones and the challenges of an on-demand economy.
To follow the discussions at the conference on November 18, follow CodeFirst Girls on Twitter at #CFGconf17 or its Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/codefirstgirls/
For more information on CodeFirst Girls’ free community courses, upcoming events and corporate coding courses, visit www.codefirstgirls.org.uk
 WISE Campaign, Women in STEM Workforce 2017 23% of women in core STEM roles.
 Recent research from Tech City UK.