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Joe Six-(Un)Pack: Coding is the New Blue-Collar Career Track

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The Silicon Valley stereotype of the young male hoodied coder feverishly banging away at a keyboard in his mom’s basement is dead, and tech will not mourn its passing.

The Silicon Valley region actually employs just eight percent of all coders in the US, according to Wired. The rest of the millions of US coders work 40 hours a week, are well paid, feel intellectually challenged in their jobs and are most likely not going to become stupid rich. Coding is on its way to becoming the preeminent US blue collar job, a data point ignored by politicians going on about how blue-collar jobs are disappearing in the US. 

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In fact, according to tech leader Anil Dash, spending more time teaching programming at the vocational level in high school or at a community college may be more beneficial than sending kids off to college to pursue expensive four-year computer science degrees.

Coders attending vocational level classes would not learn to write complicated new algorithms, Wired reported, instead, a blue-collar coder writes basic JavaScript code for a local bank or supermarket. The national average salary is approximately $81,000, over double the national average for all other blue-collar occupations. The IT job field is expected to increase by 12 percent between 2014-2024, faster than a majority of most career tracks.

Across the US, the vocational teaching of coding is on the rise, especially in those rust-belt states facing major deindustrialization. For example, in Kentucky, mining veteran Rusty Justice cofounded Bit Source, a code shop that retrains coal miners to become programmers. For his first 11 positions, Justice got 950 applications, revealing that there is high interest. 

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"Coal miners are really technology workers who get dirty," Justice told Wired.

Tennessee nonprofit CodeTN is encouraging high school students to enroll in coding programs at community colleges. Students offer that they don't fit the coder stereotype. According to CodeTN cofounder Caleb Fristoe, "We need to get more explorers saying, ‘Yeah, we just need someone to manage the login page.'"

"You don't have to be a superstar."

Humanity still needs serious innovators, however, like those creating machine learning algorithms, Lazar added. It might just depend upon whether your Mom will let you stay.

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