Why is there a shortage of good programmers?

Professor Shirley Williams of the University of Reading asks why finding good programmers is so hard, before discussing how the free online course “Begin Programming: Build Your First Mobile Game” is designed to help.


There is a myth that there is a shortage of programmers. However, in my experience when employers advertise for programmers they are often swamped by applications. What there is a shortage of is good programmers.

Over the years I have worked on various Knowledge Transfer Projects and have often had to recruit programmers. On paper there are many qualified applicants whose CVs claim expertise in the required programming language, but when this is put to the test many of the applicants lack the skills they have claimed.

All too often the applicant has written some programs but these are at a basic level, such as a program to convert measurements from metric to Imperial. Usually these applicants haven’t written anything substantial on their own and are unable to spot mistakes in someone else’s code.

Why is there a shortage of good programmers?

Because learning to program is challenging, and becoming a good programmer takes a lot of time and practice. Some people think that they are going to be proficient after a few hours of study, not realising that becoming a programmer is a long process. Then there are students who study strategically, learning only the bare minimum needed to pass a course, without worrying that this does not mean they are good programmers.

What needs to be understood is that learning to program is like learning a foreign language – we can all pick up a few key words but it takes years to become fluent in reading and writing. There are subtleties of syntax and semantics that need to be understood.

Learning one foreign language will almost certainly help in learning others, but while some natural languages share common roots and have many similarities, there are others that are very distinct in character. The same is true with programming languages; while many modern programming languages share common roots, there are different families.

What is the solution?

Our course “Begin Programming: Build Your First Mobile Game” aims to introduce you to programming in a way that encourages you to become a good programmer.

We use the example of a mobile game to make it fun, but at the same time it’s challenging. The discussions allow you to get input to your code from other learners, or to troubleshoot someone else’s problems. We use the same development software as industry professionals worldwide for the course, so you’re learning to use the tools of the trade properly from the outset.

Whether you’re interested in coding for a hobby, or are considering a career as a programmer, it’s good to start out in the right way. Becoming a good programmer can be a long journey, but if you’re starting your journey with us, we hope you’ll feel welcome and have fun!

Join “Begin Programming: Build Your First Mobile Game” now.

Category Digital Skills
Begin Programming: Build Your First Mobile Game

Begin Programming: Build Your First Mobile Game

Learn basic Java programming by developing a simple mobile game that you can run on your computer, Android phone, or tablet.

Join this free online course

Comments (43)


  • Amir

    Hi Professor Williams,
    Allah will bless you
    I look forward to beginning this course.

  • justice

    Nice one Professor Williams.
    Profession i want to be a programmer (web application), i really need someone to guide me through because i have little or no knowledge about programming. i will appreciate it if i could get some articles from you. Meanwhile, thank you so much for this insight.

  • Philip

    God will bless you

  • Chris B

    Hi Professor Williams,

    I look forward to beginning this course. What a great endeavor you and your colleagues have undertaken. It’s much appreciated! I hope it can help me secure employment.

  • Dayvkomo

    thank you very much Prof. for this one… what a good article!

  • Olumide

    Super Awesome

  • Dotse Dossou

    This is a good article for all programmers. It is more than an article, it a good piece of advise for programmers and anybody interested in programming.
    Thank you Prof for sharing your experience with us.

  • Nikita

    I want to learn to program.

  • pondurugowreeswari

    am just have first time MOOC online course hope to learn a lot hear.its my dream to learn computer progrommings ..so happy

  • Suzan

    i have just read about this Course ! … so i´m late , is it good now to start ? or sould i wait for another course ? 🙂

    • Yannick

      Hi Suzan!) Hope you are doing well. Just wanted to tell you, that you are not late for joining the course. It is going to start the 4th April 2016. Have a nice day 🙂

    • Orest

      Does anybody know In what time the first lesson is going to begin tomorrow?

  • Pavan

    Its my dream to learn computer programmings..so happy…

  • samia chelbi

    I am so excited to start !!!!!

  • Fernando

    This is my first MOOC course and it’s what I dreamed to be at the moment. I’m 100% ready to start

  • nwagu o. c. umeh

    Am just have my first time online course ,hope to learn a lot here.have no previous experience at all about computer or programming but am certain I will do it.

  • Allen

    Just signed up for the course. To answer Kate, I have Apple products too, and have no intention of using anything android, but Macs have a java compiler as standard too, so you should have no trouble with the tasks. There is a slow (evidently) convertor for any android app to run on a Mac

  • basma

    Hellooo there, this is my first online course ever! I am super excited. Hope the best for everyone

    • Yannick

      Hellooo!) Thanks and same to you)

  • Kate francis

    Can this be done on Apple products as I only have iPhone and Mac book

    • Klaas Doesburg

      Hi Kate,
      You can find out whether or not your computer is suitable for the software used in this course by going through the steps in this questionnaire: https://uor.typeform.com/to/VZvWFh

  • Anne-Marie Luckhurst

    Will pass this on to my son who wants to do this course

  • Aesha Bhavsar

    so Excited.. 🙂