With the announcement by the Higher Education Careers Service Unit (Hecsu) that IT graduates have the bleakest prospects with an unemployment rate of 16 per cent among its sector, the concern over the quality of graduates entering the job market comes into question.
Research suggests students are leaving university with the appropriate academic qualifications but lacking the technical skills, business knowledge and commercial experience necessary to secure employment within the developing IT industry, creating a catch-22 scenario for graduates, which is something CIO's need to address.
There appears to be a thinning of core technology skills in favour of wide generalist IT inclusive subjects and as such there is a likelihood that companies will have to continue to invest heavily in further training.
In addition, there is a reduction of candidates applying for these core technology degree programmes, which is unfortunate because there is a bigger need than ever for IT professionals and there will never be a shortage of jobs in the sector due to the increasingly important role it plays in society.
As a result, companies can find themselves with serious skills gaps but lacking suitable candidates to meet the specific requirements they are looking for, and there are two fundamental reasons behind this.
The IT industry is constantly responding to new technological trends, which is difficult for students fresh out of university to keep up with. With respect to the industry itself I believe there will continue to be a rapid rate of change across technology.
Possibly the key one though will be the support and maintenance of legacy technology. Many banks, for instance, are racing towards a time bomb – old programmers retiring and no one to replace them, as no one is learning these skills any more.
The IT skills shortage in the market means that graduates often have difficulty adapting to the specific technologies used by the big blue-chips without the appropriate training.
Of much greater importance, though, is the lack of business skills and commercial experience graduates attain at university. Companies need graduates to be work-ready from day one, especially in today's climate where businesses do not have the time or the money to invest in further training.
As a result, companies find it difficult to find suitable candidates with the ability to function effectively straight out of university, and this could have a lasting effect on the way people perceive the industry.
Many IT leaders believe this is down to an IT skills shortage amongst graduates, which companies need to tackle through further training in the latest technologies used by their clients, enabling them to tailor their services to meet specific requirements.
CIO's need to be prepared to offer further training for graduates straight out of university in order to fit in with their customer requirements. Companies should expect graduates with theoretical knowledge of technology with little practical implementation, knowledge or skill.
Graduates need training on how to interact with other people on a professional level, which is where companies will need to plug the knowledge and skills gap by providing their own training to graduates fresh out of university.
However, it is also important for CIO's to look at the ever-changing technologies their organisations will require, shaping their hiring strategy to keep ahead of the trends.
If you are assessing the quality of IT graduates, it is fundamental to also review the graduate training programmes in place regularly to ensure they fit in with the needs of clients. If required, and it can be justified, bespoke programmes should be tailored towards specific client requirements.
Rod Flavell is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of FDM Group