Less than one week into my internship at the UIAA Alumni Career Center, it quickly became apparent to me that there is a disparity between the candidates available for employment in computer science and the criteria that potential employers are looking for in future hires.
While computer science students are receiving marvelous educations, there is a skills gap that is hindering their marketability and success. Unfortunately, with the rapid pace of change in the information technology (IT) sector, teaching is not keeping up with the development of new program languages and tools. While it is wonderful that students are learning the theories that lay the foundation, there needs to be more time spent independently on practice and training as employers are ultimately seeking candidates with existing programming skills.
With this being known, there are two main areas of knowledge that computer scientists can control - additional skill sets and additional training.
For additional skill sets, a potential employee can separate himself from the pack by having expertise in these areas:
- Communication: Explaining problems and solutions, giving presentations, articulating your thoughts and knowing how to listen are essential aspects of computer science.
- Business: Understanding development and being able to sell your programming is key.
- Social Psychology: Working in groups and team development is very important in this career.
For additional training, a potential employee can separate himself from the pack by having a working knowledge or experience in these areas:
- Internship(s): Real life experience provides you with hands-on learning and understanding as the world of IT evolves and grows around you.
- Independent Learning: Challenge yourself to learn more outside of the classroom. Know several program languages and when to use them. Keep up with the rapid changes in the languages and tools.
- Application: As mentioned above, theories are being taught to lay the foundation, your job is to find ways such as open source projects to put them into practice.
Written by Jessica Leach '04 BUS (UI), who is currently enrolled in the Eastern Illinois University MS in College Student Affairs program and interned with the University of Illinois Alumni Association this summer.