6 Key Skills IT Grads Lack

New tech graduates are smart, their IT managers say, but they still need coaching in these key areas.

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4. The Tech Basics

As IT becomes increasingly advanced, Jeff Bowden has seen a decline in the ability of college graduates to handle simple tech tasks. "One gap we're finding is that colleges don't teach the real basic basics," says Bowden, director of IT systems at Dassault Systemes, a software vendor in Auburn Hills, Mich.

Bowden needs new hires who have basic tech skills -- they have to know their way around a command prompt, understand batch scripting or know how to fix a PC when it's not responding to input from the mouse.

"When you started 20 years ago, you were forced to learn this, but as computers evolved, people ignored this basic stuff," he says. "Yet there can be a strong need for it when you're troubleshooting computers" -- a task that's often part of an entry-level IT job.

Bowden says he often leaves his new hires to figure out what to do on their own when faced with basic tech problems. "Our preference is getting them to learn how to do it -- Googling it and so on. Then it's something they own. Once you have [hands-on experience] a few times, then you know the technology," he says, adding that he sometimes asks more senior staffers to teach new hires if time is short.

5. Familiarity With Legacy Systems

Modis's Sylvester says businesses are still looking for people who can work on legacy systems. They want workers who know Cobol, Customer Information Control System (CICS) and other mainframe skills. But colleges aren't teaching those subjects anymore, Sylvester says.

"There's a real concern that some of the mainframe skills that companies will be losing as the baby boomers retire aren't being taught in the universities," says Jerry Luftman, executive director and distinguished professor at the School of Technology Management at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J. He says some companies now ask vendors of legacy systems to help train new hires.

Luftman and Sylvester both say that companies are trying to find college grads who are willing to learn older technologies, but that's no easy task. They say some employers are trying to persuade young people to learn mainframe skills by pointing out that they'll be doubly marketable if they're up on both the latest technologies and legacy systems.

"The skills to support legacy systems are marketable to many large organizations -- corporations, government, service providers," Luftman says, although recent grads "might not always see the bigger picture or long-term opportunity at such a young age."

6. The Ability to Work on a Team

This might come as a surprise, but IT leaders report that the generation that spends so much time on Facebook, Twitter and other online communities isn't particularly skilled at collaborating with others in the workplace.

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