Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden was recently quoted at a rally in New Hampshire stating that unemployed miners and coal workers should “learn how to program,” Gizmodo reports.
Biden backed his statement by talking about his role in the Obama Administration in a “programming skills initiative in schools;” there are also many success stories of laid-off miners transforming their careers in the coding industry. “Anybody who can go down 3000 feet in a mine can sure as hell learn to program as well… Anybody who can throw coal into a furnace can learn how to program, for God’s sake!” Biden said at the rally.
Slow Down, Joe
While the idea of workers in “dirty energy businesses,” like mining, pivoting their career towards currently successful industries, such as coding, is a nice idea, it’s not that easy.
First, Gizmodo argues that Biden’s recent statement has more to do with people’s interest in taking up coding in the first place, and then building up the stamina to compete for jobs. It might be tough for many of these workers to wipe clean their mining skillsets to adapt an entirely different set of skills in a new industry, especially if they are mid-career. Plus, even if they do take up coding, there’s no guarantee they will be successful, or will get the support they need: “this has more to do with… whether job retraining programs are actually effective or will be adequately funded, or whether advising someone to just get a much more lucrative job in a high-tech sector actually comes across as helpful,” Gizmodo says.
It also seems that some people, politicians like Biden included, forget that the notion of the “future” isn’t synonymous with STEM jobs, Gizmodo says. The tech industry isn’t all that generous when it comes to generating its wealth, or, in some cases, treating their employees well; so just because someone enters into a tech job, for example, doesn’t mean they will develop the career of their dreams. On top of that, pushing people towards coding might increase the chances of an eventual market saturation. As a result, those workers might wind up back where they started.