Research shows majority of IT graduates 'not workplace ready'

Research shows majority of IT graduates 'not workplace ready'

Summary: A study has found that the vast majority of IT employers find universities to fail their students in offering workplace ready skills. Should IT graduates be offered skills training and vocational work as part of their computer science degrees?

SHARE:
TOPICS: CXO, IT Employment
33

Employers are unhappy with the lack of vocational and 'on the job' skills from students leaving college and university, a study has found.

IT graduates are being failed by universities by not training students in the real life skills that are necessary to succeed in the workplace. One of the biggest problems faced by college and university students is the lack of parity between degree courses and lack of skills overlap.

In my own experience, though it is not uncommon for students to take 'wild' modules outside the normal bounds of their degree course, students are not being advised to take particular courses based on their expected career prospects.

Some of these issues I have highlighted before, but nevertheless things have not changed. Universities are focusing on dishing out degrees in certain, close-minded subjects without little thought to how the content can be translated as skills and abilities in non-academic employment.

Some of the highlights of the study include:

Employers have concerns over a lack of technical skills and business sense in graduate students. While four out of ten employers say new graduates are not sufficiently prepared to carry out the job they have been given, only 8% of employers would state their new hires as "well trained and ready to go".

Colleges and universities need to provide students with real-life working skills to adequately run IT departments.

On the job work experience is vital for students, finding it to be better for students aiming to enter into a graduate job to take a sandwich course which would give credits for work.

The majority of employers want students to be adequately equipped with problem solving and technical ability, which can only be found with on the job working; another need for universities to provide sandwich courses and vocational training.

There is not enough variety in IT degrees for the application of real skills in areas of backup and recovery, security and disaster recovery.

In terms of the degree courses on offer, 76% of employers are looking for analytical and architectural skills, 77% want universities to teach solid programming skills and 82% are looking for databasing skills.

It is clear that some employers prefer to hire straight from school to then perform on the job training and educational forums for their new employees, to break them in and perform the schooling duties on them that they had previously missed.

What do you think of these findings? Are your graduate students ready to work, or are you holding off from offering employment from your own experience? Share your thoughts.

Topics: CXO, IT Employment

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

33 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Couldn't agree more...

    and this isn't new.

    When I started in IT, back in the mid 80s, I did a BTEC CS course, then started work. The graduates who were coming in, when I was 21/22 were on nearly the same money as me, but couldn't tell the rears from their elbows!

    There are some very good graduates out there, don't get me wrong, but a lot come out expecting the world to owe them a well paid living, but then they totally fail to deliver their end of the bargain.

    When I ran a project seminar at the University of Augsburg, in Bavaria, I dedicated part of my course to actually telling them about the outside world and trying to prepare them for it.
    wright_is
  • Well, yeah.........

    Does anyone not know how to hammer a nail?

    And how many people can actually do it?
    Takalok
  • RE: Research shows majority of IT graduates 'not workplace ready'

    That's why colleges need to integrate certifications with their degree programs so at least the students have some fundamental experience over just a textbook and hippie professor.
    Ron Burgundy
    • RE: Research shows majority of IT graduates 'not workplace ready'

      @Ron Burgundy Good point, ron, it might also help if they would keep up on whats changing in IT, the college I went to insisted that I have 3 semesters of COBOL, sure COBOL is good to know, in the 80's, and right before Y2k, but then its hard for the schools to know if they are getting instructors that are adequate too, since most of the administration doesnt even know how to use a computer, you get someone who can use keyboard shortcuts and they think he's a wiz, until you take is windows server 2000 class and he spends the whole class reading from the book then looking at the only person who works in IT in the room and asks "Is that right?"
      nickdangerthirdi@...
    • RE: Research shows majority of IT graduates 'not workplace ready'

      @Ron Burgundy Nah I've met as many cert laden individuals that are entirely incompetent as I have graduates. No piece of paper - or pieces of paper - can transform someone who's been told IT makes good money and is in demand into an actual technician.
      ITSamurai
  • RE: Research shows majority of IT graduates 'not workplace ready'

    It will always be the case that the IT degree will trail in what businesses are looking for. Its on the students to ensure they take the initiative to get Internship/co-ops while in school so that they have legitimate work experience when they come out. Also depending on what part of IT a student wants to go into they should take the initiative to work on side projects while in school that provide knowledge. Not everything has to be for credit or a grade, just able to be put on a resume and demonstrated as knowledge.
    jfp
    • RE: Research shows majority of IT graduates 'not workplace ready'

      @jfp Good points jfp...I worked summers as a lab tech at the college I went to, I learned a lot about troubleshooting and network admin as I was responsible for pretty much everything a network admin was, just at a fraction of the cost...was an awesome learning experience!
      Ron Burgundy
    • RE: Research shows majority of IT graduates 'not workplace ready'

      @jfp

      I agree, I worked on PCs for free just to get experience while I was in college. I didn't learn everything on my own that I needed when I got out of college but I was well on my way and far ahead of the folks I went to school with; they were a miserable excuse for IT candidates for sure.

      One of my old COBOL professors started teaching networking a few years after I graduated (that was when the school started offering specialized degrees; before that, they just taught programming for IT students), and he setup a networking lab and taught the students hands-on and they did get a networking certificate as part of the course. That was a while after I graduated but it made a heck of a lot of sense to me.

      A few years after that, they got a new department head and at one time, he was very active in providing hands-on knowledge to the students. I was an IT manager by then and he approached me about taking on interns. I don't know if they're still doing that or not.

      But like someone else said, this is nothing new. I used to tell people that a degree is only good for getting your foot in the door; after that, the real learning starts.
      kb5ynf
  • workplace ready = move to India

    by this pragmatic standard it's more a matter of choice rather than skills.
    Linux Geek
    • RE: Research shows majority of IT graduates 'not workplace ready'

      @Linux Geek It's okay, as soon as Pakistan lobs the first ICBM at India, the demand for tech support here will skyrocket.
      Ron Burgundy
      • RE: Research shows majority of IT graduates 'not workplace ready'

        @Ron Burgundy
        before the ICBMs drop the US workforce will be wiped out by American CEO's greed.
        Linux Geek
  • RE: Research shows majority of IT graduates 'not workplace ready'

    "<i>Employers are unhappy with the lack of vocational and on the job skills from students leaving college and university, a study has found.<br><br>IT graduates are being failed by universities by not training students in the real life skills that are necessary to succeed in the workplace. One of the biggest problems faced by college and university students is the lack of parity between degree courses and lack of skills overlap.</i>"<br><br>There is nothing unique about IT in this regard. Employers from ALL fields have always had the same complaint.<br><br>The basic problem is that <b><i>universities</i></b> and colleges are <b><i>not</i></b> vocational schools. People who do the "grunt work" in businesses can't become college/university professors. Even if they could get the job they couldn't keep it because their range of skills is too narrow--they worked at 2-3 different positions requiring similar skills. Take someone who worked as a health-insurance claims adjuster or a bank teller--<b><i>not</i></b> a branch manager, etc. Chances are a branch manager came directly from college and started in a management-trainee position. They never did the "grunt work". Even if they did, by the time they got to be a manager and accumulate a resume that would qualify them to teach, their "grunt work" was done 15-20 years ago.<br><br>And what <b><i>courses</i></b> would a "grunt-level" worker teach? Insurance? -- the person only knows a <b><i>small</i></b> section of <b><i>one</i></b> branch of insurance. Banking?--same situation.<br><br>So why not just have more individual <b><i>vocational</i></b> courses, e.g., "Health Insurance Adjusting" taught by an adjunct teacher?<br><br><b><i>Employers wouldn't consider such a curriculum valid!</i></b> They would see a list of such courses and say, "Yes, but he doesn't have a <b><i>degree</i></b> !" or "He took a bunch of junk courses--nothing challenging!"

    And let's face it--there is simply no way a college can provide what employers [b][i]really[/i][/b] want--at least [b][i]five years[/i][/b] of relevant work experience!
    Rick_R
    • Very good points..

      @Rick_R -

      Just as you and a few others have mentioned, that's what co-op courses are for, and at least at my University, the co-op programs are "recommended to students" (as in "you're a freakin' idiot and you will work as a fry cook forever if you don't join the co-op program" type of recommendation.. eyeroll.. I never participated, and I never regretted not participating.. and I'm not a fry cook.. go figure)..

      We have institutions that offer more "vocational/real world" type training programs. They are called technical institutes, not Universities (though I sadly witnessed the conversion of the institutes in my province to pseudo-universities by recent poorly-guided legislation allowing these places to grant degrees - but that's a rant for another day).. these are the places offering the "rapid career path" by training only on what's currently relevant to most employers, but by ignoring the inconvenient overhead of teaching the theory behind the skills.. In the end you get a diploma with a great title only "qualified" with the word "technician" at the end (like "Computer Engineering Technician" or "Pharmacy Technician" or "Plastics Engineering Technician".. kinda sounds like "Executive assistant".. :)
      daftkey
    • RE: Research shows majority of IT graduates 'not workplace ready'

      @Rick_R

      One other thing about "real world" courses--they don't last! Remember dBASE? FoxPro? PowerBuilder? All the various non-Ethernet network hardware? Configuring pre-LaserJet printers? Harvard Graphics? Lotus 1-2-3? VisiCalc?

      The reality is that training regarding specific technology in an IT context has a VERY limited lifespan. The first two years of a four-year degree are just survey courses anyway. The "meat" is in the final two years. -- But such a person is still really only "getting their feet wet". You wouldn't expect a fresh accounting grad to be able to handle a CFO position at a multinational corporation or a fresh BSEE to handle a Vice President of Engineering at a major manufacturer.

      Plus, [i]how do you train for corporate culture?[/i] One of the reasons Novell's acquisition of WordPerfect Corporation was such a disaster was that one company had a laid back culture and the other didn't. Teaching students about the [b][i]concept[/i][/b] of corporate culture is a whole different matter than expecting them to understand the specific employer's culture and fit in.
      Rick_R
      • RE: Research shows majority of IT graduates 'not workplace ready'

        @Rick_R I still know companies that are using FoxPro and dBase databases.

        Likewise, nearly all of our customers still use dot matrix printers for many tasks.

        When you look at how many COBOL programs are still in active use, that is also not a dead technology.

        A lot of banks are only now moving away from OS/2! And some companies are still actively using OS/2 for production processes - mainly virtualised these days, as there are no drivers...
        wright_is
    • RE: Research shows majority of IT graduates 'not workplace ready'

      @Rick_R "People who do the "grunt work" in businesses can't become college/university professors."

      Actually the inverse is true, someone with high level of talent and knowledge likely gained it - and makes substantially more doing 'grunt' work than they would teaching.

      Also how can an instructor with no real experience (most professors) possibly prepare students for work environments?

      Frankly your garbage attitude is the bulk of the problem for most n00bs in the field. They're waiting to be handed everything and only get experience 40hrs at a time on someone elses clock. Compared to those willing to do the grunt work on and off the clock who out pace the whiners crying about how the minimal effort they put into a worthless degree doesn't help them a wit in the work place where scrappers with associates are out pacing them with ease.
      (Also many of the best programmers I've known have no degree whatsoever because they don't care - they make far more than I do and have likely forgotten more than I know.)
      ITSamurai
    • RE: Research shows majority of IT graduates 'not workplace ready'

      @Rick_R Here in Germany apprenticeships are still common for a lot of jobs - we currently have 3 programmers and a support person doing apprenticeships at the company where I work.

      For many jobs, even if you have a degree, you still need to do an apprenticeship, and if you want to run your own business, you will then need to go on and get a Meister Brief (Master Letter).

      You have to study for many professions (like doctor, lawyer etc.), but for insurance, banking, programming, mechanic, electrician etc. you generally need to do an apprenticeship.
      wright_is
  • RE: Research shows majority of IT graduates 'not workplace ready'

    This is the responsibility of business. Not Universities. This issue pervades every aspect of college graduates. The purpose of the universities is to provide the environment for students to learn how to learn. It is business' responsibility to teach the real life skills through their entry level recruitment and training programs.

    Where do you cut education to extend the skills that universities are demanding? History, English and the Humanities? Business has enough problems with ethics and poor writing to cut here. Foreign Language in a global economy?

    Seems business needs to step up and quit their whining....

    Seems to me that Businesses need to step up and provide this; either through internships or corporate training.

    I agree that the average IT grad has taken 0 business courses and the average busienss grad has taken exactly 0 IT courses. If educataion is broadened beyond this, you will either extend the college experience and the associated costs, further eliminating more of the financially strapped population. Or you will further reduce the skills that businesses are demanding.
    Freddy McGriff
    • Agreed

      @Freddy McGriff <br>The purpose of a university is to teach people to think, to give them a broad enough knowledge of the world so that they can't be fooled or misled by charlatans and cheats. If you know history, you won't be fooled by people with an agenda who try to sway you by distorting the past. If you know the humanities, you become a better world citizen because you know the richness of the human experience. If you know English, you can express yourself to other speakers and readers of English in a clear and logical manner that avoids confusion and misinterpretation. If you have a broad knowledge of science and math, you understand the workings of the world.<br><br>Too many companies would have you forgo this unique experience so that you can become just another drone on the treadmill and just another consumer of the bread and circuses by which those in power try to numb our spirits.
      sissy sue
      • RE: Research shows majority of IT graduates 'not workplace ready'

        @sissy sue - nicely said
        smulji