It’s not likely that most people would put the words “coding” and “blue collar” in the same sentence, but that misperception could change in the not-too-distant future. Clive Thompson, an opinion writer for Wired, has some thoughts:
What if the next big blue-collar job category is already here—and it’s programming? What if we regarded code not as a high-stakes, sexy affair, but the equivalent of skilled work at a Chrysler plant?
Eastern Kentucky leaders have been pushing to integrate coding and programming into the region’s workforce lexicon. U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers routinely says the region could become a “Silicon Holler.” Coding is a pillar of SOAR’s platform for workforce. BitSource and Mines to Minds are both geared toward retraining coal miners to become programmers. The Holler, which is a program of the Kentucky Valley Education Cooperative, actively engages eastern Kentucky youth in coding, programming and digital storytelling to prepare them for those kinds of careers.
“The national average salary for IT jobs is about $81,000 (more than double the national average for all jobs), and the field is set to expand by 12 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than most other occupations,” writes Thompson. Why can’t these kinds of jobs infiltrate eastern Kentucky, and provide opportunity for the region? Thompson actually mentions BitSource as an example of the shifting narrative of coding and programming jobs.
One looming obstacle, though, is access to high-speed broadband Internet, which still lags far behind the rest of the nation in eastern Kentucky. If we are to transition our economy in the region to one the supports and is actively open to coding and programming jobs, then we must expand broadband access. It’s infrastructure that is essential to modern life, and our region should not be left behind.