Six Skills That New IT Grads Need But Don’t Have

Confused GuyThe good news is more employers are looking for people who’ve got skills in new technologies. The bad news is many fresh graduates don’t have key skills that IT employers want and need. Computerworld’s Mary K. Pratt talked to recruiters and employers to compile this a list of talents—technological, educational and interpersonal—that they haven’t developed, in great part because the schools simply don’t teach them. The big six:

1. Knowledge of Business Basics

Today, IT is often considered a business function. Yet most CIS/IT/MIS students don’t learn business basics, which can hurt when other departments ask them to participate in projects, or the CIO wants budgets projections for the next four quarters. Though some grad programs are beginning to address this, recruiters say there’s still a knowledge gap.

2. Experience with Systems Integration

Employers find that new grads may be great at building a system from scratch but haven’t learned how to integrate a new system into an existing legacy infrastructure. This is hard to teach and hard to learn quickly on the job. It’s a real sticking point for inexperienced developers.

3. Emerging Technologies Expertise

Which of tomorrow’s potentially winning technologies should colleges teach? It can be a tough call. Luckily, some employers put new hires through developer boot camps  to get them familiar with the technologies they’re most immersed in.

4. The Tech Basics

People born in 1988 have no reason to be familiar with a blinking command prompt, but if they want to work in IT they should. New hires need to know things like batch scripting or how to fix a PC when it’s not responding to input from the mouse, the really basic stuff. Some employers just force people to learn by trial and error. (That’s where Google can come in handy.)

5. Familiarity with Legacy Systems

Though employers want workers who know Cobol, Customer Information Control System (CICS) and other mainframe skills, colleges don’t teach them anymore. (If they did, who would want to take the classes?) It’s a big problem because as baby boomers retire, they’re taking their mainframe experience with them.

6. The Ability to Work on a Team

The cliché of the solitary programmer is true. Many IT pros prefer to work alone, especially when they’re coding. But the real world is full of team projects and meetings, and the ability to function in that kind of environment has to be learned. Some schools–but not all–force students to work on team projects to address this particular skills gap.

13 Responses to “Six Skills That New IT Grads Need But Don’t Have”

  1. So-called old-tech-geeks possess all but one of the necessary: “emerging technologies”; and I am sure many of them possess even that attribute. Their years of experience prove their ability to learn (quickly) and utilize new tools. What probability employers are seeking out qualified talent with considerable experience? After all, 5 out of 6 “ain’t” bad.

    • Employers now want somebody that has distinct experience doing certain tasks, so that somehow this guarantees that they are good. Have companies bothered to ask why these people are no longer doing these tasks? I learn things all the time but cannot get hired because it has to be on the job training. School doesn’t count, or what you learn on your own. What type of imbecilic mentality is that! Why even hire college grads, just hire high schoolers. Maybe they could hire the millions on the streets so that the gang and homeless problems would go away. In the meantime they might start to cultivate the workers that they have now. Of course, this doesn’t apply to every company, but many of them seem to have a bad attitude about labor!

  2. Sure 5 out of 6 is close, but as someone that hires IT professionals those that have all 6 versus will leave those so-called old-tech-geeks that possess and an ‘”ain’t bad” attitude where 5 out of 6 is good enough won’t be good enough to be in my pool of candidates for hire.

    • According to the article, the recent grads have none of the skills being sought. So tell us, are you able to locate qualified candidates for your open positions? Because at least one other person who is seeking “coders” has stated on a DiceBlog that she can’t find qualified candidates for the positions. Perhaps your open slots do not require the skills that college grads are lacking.

  3. Matt Foote

    Sadly the most important skill for an IT professional is not taught in most schools and also is not on this list. The skill of how to relate to people is the single most important skill for anyone in any industry and it is the one most often forgotten.

  4. Fred Bosick

    Mike is correct. Chris, how many people *are* you getting that have all 6 of these qualities(not that I agree with them)? And, are you paying them adequately?

    Point 1 is a crock! If this is so important, why not fill all your IT positions with MBA degree holders?? It takes people with many different skills to run any organization. If all the IT staff must also know business basics, why are the executives even necessary?

  5. NeedJobSearchTips

    “New hires need to know things like batch scripting or how to fix a PC when it’s not responding to input from the mouse, the really basic stuff. ”
    My mainboard is “slightly” damaged, GPU not properly fixed to it. I know how to manage the problem, but that know-how still doesn’t help me much in the job search.

  6. It seems to me that there is plenty of experience around, but companies are so selective with people when looking at their references and other background information, they drum them out. The old, the young, women, the ones who have not been given a chance because of some real or imagined criteria that the corporate boy scouts have thought up keeps many people from working, even when they have the education and knowledge. They just don’t have the experience, with many companies expecting ‘other’ companies to train people, but not them because it is not efficient. We all live in the same world and different industries also have synergy, although it would be hard to calculate in monetary terms, it still exists in those terms. Another problem is that companies want to just eliminate all the citizens that they can so that they are able to approach the government about getting H1B or other visas so that they can procure low wage foreigners who have been trained by companies and in schools, which are free is countries like India, China, and Mexico. Unfortunately, it is too expensive for the US to provide free education, so business skims these other countries for help. These other countries not only have many more people, but many more skilled people and this is why. They are not smarter than our people here in the US, nor as productive. Companies just need to quit looking for other criteria instead of what they want to get in people!

      • I don’t think they are unreasonable at all, but there are many people around that have a lot more of these six knowledge abilities than what is listed and they cannot even get hired. Business first said, uh, well, geeks are no good because they do not know anything about business. Then they said, uh, well, now that they have learned about business they don’t seem to know the specialty, which is programming a project. We live in the age of specialization – a person who codes for a living does not need to know about business but the person who develops the design does, as well as the IT Manager. Business wants too much and then they find out that all they can get are people that are able to be good doing one program at a time, like SAP or other program.