I have no idea what open source is, so I'll have to look into it.
That's a good idea. I obviously don't know just yet what sort of project I can do, I suppose I'll only know once I know a bit about programming.
Sounds like I just have to show I can do something useful in a language, which may be enough.
Thanks for the advice everyone.
Lastly, are there any languages you can recommend I should learn? Or is that question too broad? When I was looking at job adverts the most common languages I saw were (in no particular order):
c, c#, c++, .net, microsoft.net, sql, oracle, java, sas, html, xml, ajax, python, acl, php, cache,...
and some others. Any suggestions? I really don't know where to start, just to learn some general programming skills.