Systèmes, a software vendor in Auburn
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.
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
“As much as we’d like to think that this
generation is all about social media, working
together continues to be a significant chal-
lenge,” 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. u
Pratt is a Computerworld contributing writer in Waltham, Mass.
You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Team-building training is key,
says James T. Brown, president
of SEBA Solutions.
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
Traits IT Managers LOVE
WHILE IT’S TRUE that IT managers are dismayed that new tech grads lack certain skills, overall they agree that this new generation is tech-savvy, hard-working and willing to learn.
Todd Thibodeaux, president and CEO of Comp TIA, 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 na-
ture that comes along with that.”
IT executives also say their latest college hires have an intuitive sense
of technology — in particular, an understanding of social networking
and ideas on how to apply it to enhance business performance.