The man with 26 million students will make you a programmer in a month

Zach Sims founded the site to teach himself

Zach Sims founded the site to teach himself

Of the many buzzwords making the rounds in Davos this year, “skills gap” is the most ubiquitous.

The great and good attending the World Economic Forum (WEF) have done much hand wringing over how to address what one report termed a “worrying mismatch between the demand for specific skills and the supply of suitable candidates”.

While there seems to be a broad consensus on what the causes of the said gap are – outdated teaching methods and course syllabuses, and lack of in-work training – there is less agreement on what needs to be done, or who should be doing it.

But one unlikely WEF attendee – a 24-year-old from New York who dropped out of Columbia University before completing his degree – is grabbing the attention of crusty executives gathered in this mountain resort.

Introduced by global leaders as the “man who has 26 million students”, Zach Sims runs a three-year-old website called Codecademy, which enables users to learn six popular programming languages, via a simple interface, for free.

Zach is hardly the Davos type – he apologises when using buzzwords such as “intersection” and uses sarcastic air quotes when talking about the WEF’s “new digital context” slogan – but he is a vivid example of a “skills gap” victim, albeit a first-world one.

“When I was looking for internships in my junior year, at companies like Goldman Sachs and McKinsey, I realised that nobody I was going to college with had any skills that would be relevant in that context,” he says.

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