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6 key skills new IT grads are lacking

Mary K. Pratt | Feb. 14, 2012
Greg Taffet is scouting for talent.

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.

"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 time in college 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 that deficiency by assigning homework to teams rather than individual students. Unfortunately, this approach isn't always successful because the teams often just break the assignments into pieces that individuals complete on their own.

Brown says only a handful of companies offer employees robust leadership and team-building training programs -- and they're the ones that recognize that they get the most value out of employees who work well with others.


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