"Here it's more bemusement than anything else, it's as though programming is only coming into vogue when it actually pre-dates the computer and some people appear to be waiting for the equivalent of the CCIE Programmer, when they can get started very easily today!"
So when somebody says "I program in Python", your reaction is bemusement?
I don't think it's that programming itself is coming into vogue, which seems to be what you're suggesting; rather, network engineers have been able to survive for years without having to do much, if any, programming. The idea that their job role may start requiring a skill that not all of them have acquired is, understandably, causing concern. It's very nice to say everybody should be able to program, but in my experience that just isn't the case, and while it doesn't make them a worse network engineer, being able to program would certainly expand thair capabilties in certain areas.
I understand their concern, and I suspect many are now wondering how - regardless of their current level of programming - that skill will be evaluated by employers, and how to demonstrate it on a resumé.