Technology grads not ready for resurgent economy: survey

Only eight percent of companies in a new survey consider incoming IT talent to be 'well-trained and ready to go.'

Are graduates of IT programs at colleges and universities capable of hitting the ground running?  Not likely, says a new survey of 376 employers.

This is a fast-paced economy, and for most businesses, the path to growth requires information technology — the key to smart measurement, analysis and service to customer segments and markets.

Skilled and well-trained IT managers and professionals hold the key to success for companies in this new, hyper-competitive era. And, guaranteed, as the economy heats up, there are going to be many shortages of the skills that are needed. Already, despite persistently high employment rates, demand for skilled professionals is soaring.

In a new survey of 376 IT executives, a majority report that they depend on the educational sector—universities and colleges—to provide graduates with specific IT skills in enterprise programming languages and mainframe administration skills, as well as business skills such as problem-solving and communications abilities. However, few companies are entirely satisfied with the readiness of graduates coming out of campuses.

The survey, part of my work with Unisphere Research/Information Today, Inc., was conducted in conjunction with SHARE, the large systems user group, and IBM on what employers expect out of today's generation of college students. Assistance and valuable guidance was provided by Nick Karonis and Robert Rannie, computer science professors at Northern Illinois University. (Executive summary of the report available here from the SHARE site.)

Overall, hiring plans are strongest for skilled programmers and developers, the survey finds, with 59% hiring or planning to hire these types of professionals. Another 36% are hiring analysts and architects, and 27% seek application management talent.

About half of the companies in the survey hire new IT employees straight out of school, with relatively little actual working experience. Ideally, most would like to see at least a year of on-the-job experience—especially among smaller companies. A majority require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in their new IT hires, and in most cases, the preferred degree is a computer science degree.

The survey found that one out of four companies are concerned about the technical aptitude of job candidates, but there is even greater concern about their lack of business skills. Close to four out of 10 report that their IT hires are not sufficiently prepared to perform jobs within their companies, and another 44% say at a minimum there are notable gaps in skills. Some remedial skills training is always needed; only 8% would rate their IT hires as “well-trained, ready to go.”

Needed are not only IT managers and employees who can handle all the legacy systems still running many organizations, but also know how to deal with the business.

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