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7 key skills new IT grads are lacking

By Mary K. Pratt
October 12, 2011 06:00 AM ET

Denham says he tries to bring new hires down to earth by walking them through the reasons why their designs won't get the green light, even though the technology might be sound. "If they're open-minded, then mentoring will work," he says.

Wanted: The ability to work as a team

It might come as a surprise, but the generation steeped in Facebook, Twitter and other online communities turns out to not be particularly skilled at building the same collaborative spirit in the workplace, IT leaders are reporting.

"As much as we'd like to think that this generation is all about social media, working together continues to be a significant challenge," Thibodeaux says, noting that this weakness is particularly prevalent among computer science majors who spent a lot of their college time working on projects alone.

"A lot of them don't know how to work together effectively or set and manage expectations. That's not being taught very well in colleges or graduate schools."

James T. Brown, president of consulting and training firm SEBA Solutions in Viera, Fla., says some colleges are trying to address the gap by assigning more coursework to teams, rather than individual students, but the students in the teams often just break down the assignments into individual parts that they each do on their own.

Brown says only a handful of companies have robust leadership and team-building training programs for their workers, including tech employees, but those companies that do offer such programs recognize that they get the full value of any employee when he or she works well with others.

And a few traits IT managers love...

While it's true that IT managers are dismayed that new tech grads lack certain specific skills, overall they agree that this new generation is tech-savvy, hard-working and willing to learn.

CompTIA's Thibodeaux says he hears from colleagues that the latest graduates are energetic, creative and eager to contribute.

"I'm not sure that was always the case," he says. "Twenty years ago there was more of a command-and-control environment. People didn't volunteer themselves or jump into projects as much. The kids today like variety, and they have the energy, creativity, and good nature that comes along with that."

IT executives also say their latest college hires have an intuitive sense of technology -- in particular, social networking acumen and novel ideas on how to apply it to enhance business performance.

"Often they have great insights as to what ought to be tried or to what might work," says John N. Oglesby, an IT executive in Tennessee and a founding member of the Memphis chapter of the Society for Information Management. "They bring a completely new outside perspective, and that's typically where innovation comes from."

Pratt is a Computerworld contributing writer in Waltham, Mass. You can contact her at marykpratt@verizon.net.

Read more about IT Leadership in Computerworld's IT Leadership Topic Center.



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