When I starting learning how to build websites I used to read through as many articles and tutorials as I could find online. I remember spending a lot of time on sites like WebMonkey, and as I learnt more I would click the 'view source' button on websites and attempt to decipher the lines and lines of code I saw staring back at me.
It took me several more years before I had a 'proper job' as a web developer, and it was by no means straightforward - I believe we can make this path easier.
Supply and demand
The education system we have is not working for fast-paced digital industries.
There's no doubt that the tech industries (and more specifically Drupal development) are booming and the demand for skilled new developers is ever increasing. The problem is that the education system we have is not designed for, and is not working for fast-paced digital industries.
Projects such as CodeAcademy, Mozilla's WebMaker and many other initiatives are lowering the barriers to learning web technologies hugely, but how do we translate these learning resources into tangible job opportunities?
There's huge potential in the community that surrounds Drupal (and other open source projects) for a collaborative effort to help people break into careers more easily, an industry-led effort to create and maintain up to date learning materials, and generate new opportunities could create a superior alternative to the traditional education system for many.
It's a good deal for both the apprentice and the employer.
An apprenticeship is an increasingly popular option for young people here in the UK. It involves 'earning and learning' in a placement, whereby the apprentice receives a wage and training and becomes an employee of the company - contributing toward it and becoming another team member, at the end of the apprenticeship they should receive a recognised qualification. It's a good deal for both the apprentice and the employer.
Everything about Drupal puts it in a prime position as platform of choice for apprenticeship and training programmes, it's ubiquity, expansive and embracing community and codebase that allows for modular and approachable development.
Over the past year or so, myself and a group of volunteers from the Drupal community have started an initiative: Open Drupal. Our aim is to provide free and open source training materials for Drupal with the aim of lowering the barriers to both learning and teaching Drupal, we've so far prototyped a free and open source curriculum.
Open Drupal: free and open source training materials for Drupal
With a landscape of high-demand for tech/Drupal jobs, increasing opportunity with Apprenticeships and a generation ready and eager to take on the challenges of web development we think the time is perfect for an initiative like this.
We are also taking action by supporting apprenticeship programmes, and so far we've helped a group of young people start their careers off in Drupal.
We hope that in doing this we'll help the overall developer ecosystem in Drupal, bringing in local talent and helping fill the skills gap. There's a lot more to do, and as all our materials will be open source, who knows where this could go!
To learn more about Open Drupal and the curriculum, and to find out what you can do to help and get involved, head over to http://opendrupal.org.
Earlier in the year I gave a talk at DrupalCamp London 2014 discussing Open Drupal, the slides are available on SlideShare.