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7 key skills new IT grads are lacking

Mary K. Pratt | Oct. 13, 2011
Greg Taffet is scouting for talent.

In the meantime, IT leaders have developed strategies to ensure their new employees have basic business acumen. Taffet, for example, seeks out new grads with some professional work experience -- and a corresponding understanding of how a business operates -- although he says they're often snapped up quickly by others.

For those new hires who don't have sufficient business knowledge, particularly in the area of finance, Taffet teaches what he calls "Finance 101" courses, which are informal lessons on basic business accounting concepts like accounts receivable and accounts payable.

"It's less glamorous than a lot of the new things that are being taught, but it's just as important that an employee understand [the business functions] that all companies have," Taffet explains.

Wanted: Experience with enterprise systems integration

There's no denying that college students, no matter what their major, get plenty of computer experience. But that experience doesn't mean that students are schooled in the IT processes that businesses use, says Thibodeaux.

Most computer science students spend a majority of their time in college learning how to build their own applications and systems, he points out, even though businesses often don't necessarily need that type of expertise.

"When you get into the business world, it's a lot less about having to create your own system and more about how to integrate systems," Thibodeaux says.

New grads who can build their own systems from scratch may be impressive, he explains, but many companies find better value in those who can integrate multiple big enterprise applications and commercial packages or can take a function created internally and integrate it into an established system.

Faced with this skill gap, many corporate IT departments choose to train new hires themselves, he says. Large companies tend to engage consultants to aid in the process, while small and midsize companies find ways to train new employees directly.

Wanted: Knowledge of emerging enterprise technologies

Business intelligence (BI) and cloud computing are two the emerging tech trends that are high priorities to enterprise IT managers these days, but those topics haven't trickled down into college curricula yet.

Colleges can offer only so many courses, and with technologies changing so rapidly, there tends to be some lag time when it comes to developing extensive coursework in evolving trends, says Marty Sylvester, senior vice president of Modis, an IT staffing firm in Harrisburg, Pa.

Sylvester says he regularly hears from CIOs who say how hard it is to find young workers trained in emerging enterprise technologies, particularly cloud computing.

Some companies offer crash courses to get their new hires up to speed. Bruce Ballengee, CEO of Pariveda Solutions, says his Dallas-based IT consultancy plans to make 100 job offers to college grads this fall, with most offers going to those with bachelor's degrees in MIS or computer science.


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