New SHARE Study: Colleges and Universities Need to Step Up Mainframe, Business Skills Training

Are today's IT college graduates entering the workforce with the right sets of skills that companies now so critically need? Or is additional training required? In a new survey of 376 employers, a majority report they depend on the educational sector - universities and colleges - to provide specific IT skills, such as enterprise programming languages, as well as business skills such as problem-solving andcommunications. However, few companies are entirely satisfied with the readiness of graduates coming out of campuses.

These are the results of a new survey fielded among SHARE members, as well as subscribers to Database Trends and Applications. The survey, sponsored by IBM and conducted in January 2011 by Unisphere Research, a division of Information Today, Inc., included the perspectives of IT managers and professionals in organizations with highly diverse IT infrastructures.

Overall, hiring plans are strongest for skilled programmers and developers, the survey finds. Six out of 10 companies will be hiring programmers and developers over the coming year, and seek skills in application server environments, database languages, and Java. COBOL is still sought as a skill by almost four out of 10 companies.

One out of four companies are concerned about the technical aptitude of job candidates, but there is even greater concern about lack of business skills. Close to four out of 10 report that their IT hires are not sufficiently prepared to perform jobs within their companies, and another 44% say at a minimum there are notable gaps in skills. Some remedial skills training is always needed; only 8% would rate their IT hires are "well-trained, ready to go."

Employers overwhelmingly agree that colleges and universities need to provide the essential skills required to run IT departments. Seventy-seven percent look to
educational institutions to provide programming skills, 82% look for database skills, 76% look for analysis and architectural skills. Along with appropriate technical skills, eight out of 10 companies seek problem-solving and technical skills.

About half of the companies in the survey hire new IT employees straight out of school, with relatively little actual working experience. Ideally, most would like to see at least a year of on-the-job experience-especially among smaller companies. A majority require a minimum of a bachelor's degree in their new IT hires, and in most cases, the preferred degree is a computer science degree.

There is a lot of demand for specific skill areas, but employers also want well-rounded, business-savvy employees as well. As one respondent put it: "People need to understand the ‘big picture' of how computers work, from the deep level programming to how that affects - and interconnects with - applications, servers, and other things in the data center."

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