If you follow the Guardian Arts online (and I know you do), you likely saw Chris Bryant’s comment on the arts world needing more diversity (there was no missing James Blunt’s response and Chris Bryant’s response to the response). Around the time of Blunt-Bryantgate I was reading an article about technology’s high barrier to entry for the underprivileged.
It struck me that this barrier to entry happens in a lot of fields where you see a few things line up in a perfect storm.
- Lack of access – if you can’t get to the opera, or afford the tickets – how do you get interested?
- Lack of mentor – for a young person exploring an area of interest a guide or mentor is invaluable in terms of teaching, connections and real world experience.
- High cost of entry – equipment costs money – and in some fields equipment can be extremely expensive. Sailing, computer programming, horse back riding all require expensive equipment to get started and/or get training in.
- Lack of support during the learning process – take the example of computer programming. Ongoing support – even if not from a mentor or expert in the field is crucial. Teachers and parents can fill this role, as outside motivation and support. In addition, some careers require a university degree – which for some can be out of reach.
- Lack of peer support – peer support, or rather peer acceptance, can help tip the scales for young people.
- Lack of career support – in the case of the arts, the struggling artist of the 1950s is a different beast then today. Today many artists need either supplemental income or a family that can support them financially while they get their feet.
While there have been a lot of amazing initiatives in both arts and IT to give access to underprivileged kids it seems – at least based on my 20 years in the industry – that we need a more multi-pronged approach.
But as O’Neill points out, the young boy from Brooklyn who is making it against all the odds, was lucky, had the right mix of (basic) support, but had a huge amount of drive and interest as well. Personal drive and interest is not something we legislate for, nor can we force it upon others either.
I would love to see the barriers for entry lowered for kids interested in IT, but lacking the access, support and money required. The talent is certainly there – we only need to nurture it.