I've been traveling so much lately for the job that I haven't been able to put in nearly the normal amount of time I like to in my gardens.  So when the Independence Day holiday rolled around, I was able to use much of the day in my gardens.  It may sound like real drudgery to you, but there's nothing so pleasurable for me as to work hard with my hands, turn off my brain, and let my mind wonder.

One of the things that I was thinking about as I dug in the dark earth of my vegetable gardens was the world of higher education.  We've all been hearing a lot about how many of the more mundane jobs in the IT industry are being outsourced and even shipped overseas.  This business practice is cutting off many traditional entry-level job opportunities for college graduates.  I've also seen many IT shops that still need to fill lots of IT job slots, but typically of a more skilled and experienced description.

As my mind meandered through these thoughts, I recalled a recent discussion I had with a dean of a large midwestern university IT computer science program.  His questions to me seemed to fall in line with my earlier thoughts.  Are computer science and computer-related bachelors programs at universities and colleges across the country providing the right educational mix?

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this!

A few thoughts of my own?  First, true business skills are more important now for CS and MIS majors than ever before.  I'd suggest that anyone working on a degree in one of these disciplines should get a good grounding in general business principles such as accounting, management, and marketing.  Even students of non-business-related degree programs such as computer gaming should get skills in product management, project management, and documentation.

Second, and I'm not exactly sure how to teach this, but students need to know that it's hard to succeed in IT as the stereotypical 'smart techie in a back room'.  In a phrase, students need to understand that strong customer service skills are more important than ever.  We're all part of a team and the ability to communicate with and meet the needs of the team are critical to the success of the team. 

In addition, at the end of the day, college graduates are essentially competing with other job applications.  Any hiring manager with good sense will hire the better communicator over another candidate, perhaps even one with better technical skills.  As a hiring manager myself, I know that the first two things I try to assess in any candidate I interview is attitude and aptitude.  If the candidate has a friendly and open attitude and a strong aptitude for learning and embracing change, then they've score big points with me.

Still, the question remains, have students learned what they need to succeed in the IT market during their time in college?

What do you think?

Thanks for your thoughts,

-Kevin