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6 key skills new IT grads are lacking

February 13, 2012 06:00 AM ET

In the meantime, IT leaders have developed strategies to ensure their new employees have basic business acumen. Taffet, for example, looks for recent grads with some previous work experience -- and a corresponding understanding of how a business operates -- but other employers often snap up those candidates quickly.

For those new hires who don't have sufficient business knowledge, particularly in the area of finance, Taffet teaches what he calls "Finance 101" -- a series of 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," he explains.

2. Experience With Systems Integration

There's no denying that college students, regardless of their major, get plenty of computer experience. But that doesn't mean they're 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.

People who can build systems from scratch may have impressive talents, he explains, but many companies find more value in those who can integrate multiple enterprise applications and commercial packages or can take a function created internally and integrate it into an established system.

To compensate for this skills 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 people directly.

3. Emerging Technologies Expertise

Business intelligence (BI) and cloud computing are two emerging tech trends that are high priorities to enterprise IT managers, 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 people trained in emerging enterprise technologies, particularly cloud computing.

Some companies offer crash courses to get new hires up to speed. One employer that takes that approach is Pariveda Solutions, a Dallas-based IT consultancy. CEO Bruce Ballengee says Pariveda generally hires recent grads who hold bachelor's degrees in MIS or computer science and then starts them off with a week of "developer school" to familiarize them with emerging technologies they may not have studied in college, such as cloud computing and BI, as well as in-demand enterprise programming languages like SQL, .Net and Java.



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