How Universities Can Help Build Job-Ready Graduates That Possess IT Transformational Skills
In recent years we have seen a heightened appreciation of investment in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) disciplines as a vehicle that can boost innovation. There has been a noticeable uptick in STEM graduates in many areas of the world, particularly in the Asia Pacific and Japan region which generate a consistently high volume of quality STEM graduates year in, year out.
This is an encouraging development to help bridge the apparent “skills gap” of the next generation. However, with fewer certainties about what career a degree will lead to, employers understandably want graduates to be better prepared for the workplace and thus seek those who are job-ready.
In a world where business IT skills are in short supply, investing in helping to equip students with technical and transformational skills, on top of theoretical skills should be high on the agenda. Increasingly, organizations are looking for IT professionals with core business knowledge to cope with managing lifecycles, relationship management, and project management.
With Forrester suggesting that analytics, loyalty programs, and agility (among other things) will be crucial for business success in 2016, practical upskilling in these areas, on top of general IT skills, should be prioritized. Yet the responsibility for filling this gap in skills and knowledge must be shared between businesses and universities, with awareness on both sides of the complexities of the other.
The role between business and university
Universities that schedule additional courses must not conflict or detract from a student’s core studies. By providing optional add-on career strengthening courses, or by hosting courses online, teachers are able to conduct lectures and assignments out of “usual” hours, meaning core classes can continue as usual, and students can pick and choose additional certification courses at a pace that works best for them. This provides competitive advantage to both universities and students.
Employers, understandably, want educators to pay more attention to research showing which skills are needed by different sectors, and to respond quickly to it. Working with key technology vendors to set up online courses is a cost- and time-efficient way to ensure students gain the appropriate skills.
EMC, for example, collaborates with colleges and universities worldwide to help prepare students for successful careers in a transforming IT industry. The EMC Academic Alliance program offers unique ‘open’ curriculum-based education on technology topics such as cloud computing, Big Data analytics, information storage and management, and backup recovery systems and architecture. The courses focus on technology concepts and principles applicable to any vendor environment, enabling students to develop highly marketable knowledge and skills required in today’s evolving IT industry. EMC takes a comprehensive approach and also works with Institutes and Universities to create a specialization track for some of the above transformational programs.
Doing so enables graduates to not only finish their education with a world-class degree, but also possess reputable vendor certifications, where knowledge can be applied almost immediately. Consequently, these graduates become attractive candidates for jobs building the digital infrastructure needed by the fast-approaching information generation.
Measurement of university no longer just about academia
With the next generation of increasingly tech-savvy students coming through education systems, traditional models of teaching are becoming more and more disrupted. The next generation will be far more used to self-paced e-Learning than preceding generations.
With this in mind, a strong case can be made for assessing how universities measure success. While academia provides a solid framework, the graduates of tomorrow need to leave university ready to add their skills to the workplace almost immediately. Thus, more emphasis must be placed on creating graduates who are more agile, have a solid understanding of how the workplace operates, and can see how their skills fit into it.
What’s your experience of graduates coming into your business sector? Are they ‘business ready’ or do they need a bit more grounding in the practical reality of the technologies and tools your team uses? I’d be interested to read your thoughts in the comments section.