CoderWomen: How to help adults catch up with the kids

19 Oct 2016

Jan Carroll (centre), founder of CoderWomen, with some of her current class. Image: Jan Carroll

Coding initiatives are numerous, varied and often tailored for children, providing youngsters with the tools of tomorrow. But what about adults? Well, there’s help for them, too.

In Navan, Co Meath, there’s a small group that meets up every week to learn coding. Unlike CoderDojo or Coder Girl Hack Day though, CoderWomen has adults in mind; specifically those looking to get back into the workforce.

With no budget and a “fledgling” idea at hand, Jan Carroll, a teacher at VTOS Navan, decided the time was right to help out today’s workers, rather than tomorrow’s.

Future Human


A teacher in adult education, Carroll was teaching basic IT skills and, as the wants and needs of students became more advanced, coding came into her crosshairs.

Largely cloud-based at first, the majority of people originally taking the class were men. What started with internet and web authoring soon became HTML and CSS and, pretty quickly, women became interested.

“The whole point of CoderWomen came from people coming in and doing coding for the first time,” said Carroll to, speaking ahead of her appearance at FÉILTE, the Festival of Education in Learning and Teaching Excellence, held last month in Dublin.

“Coding is a subject many of them never would have picked, but when they started doing it they realised they liked it, it wasn’t hard, it was interesting and, importantly, they could go technical or creative. That’s where the group came from.”

Acting as a bit of a support network, Carroll’s CoderWomen project is not long in the game but its effects are already being felt.

In the first coding class, there were a handful of women and almost four times as many men. But as a VTOS scheme, dealing with people out of work for over six months, some of the women went on to further hone their digital skills in college.

“Courses in digital media, business; they moved on to that. It’s all just a focus on women like us, allowing us all to share resources.

“Very few of us are what’s called ‘digital natives’, we’re learning all the time. I became interested in all of this because of my background in IT. The original coders were women, why can’t we do the same today?”

Sharing the title with Spain, Portugal and the US, Ireland’s talent mismatch has been rated the highest around, with wage pressures making it extremely hard for companies to source talent.

While overall the Irish jobs market is buoyant and improving, with businesses “genuinely confident” and investing in growth, Richard Eardley, MD of Hays Ireland, has words of caution.

“The talent mismatch remains a significant issue and skills shortages are still prevalent across IT, construction and life sciences,” he said.

“Tech companies in particular are finding it difficult to source the skills they need and in construction, there is a shortage of surveyors, engineers and architects.”

The bodies are here, the skills are not. So maybe projects looking to reskill our current workforce are the way to go.

“Those taking the class that are aged between 20-30 have no issue with it at first. They have lived with technology for so much of their lives,” added Carroll.

“Anyone aged between 30-60, though, they are the ones who find it a challenge. It’s not difficult to do though, it’s just a mental challenge.”

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic