Program Access

Bridging the skills gap in today’s IT job market. 

GUEST COLUMN | by Terri Virnig

CREDIT IBMThe growth of Big Data has the power to transform business decisions, enhance customer relationships, and create new opportunities – but only if businesses are capable of making sense of it. The large amount of data available today has created a need for employees with specialized talents. However, over the last several years, employers have struggled to fill job vacancies with professionals that have the proficiency in all things data – skills that are required to address their ongoing business challenges. That is all about to change though.

There is a big opportunity out there for private companies, colleges, universities, and students. 

In the 2012 IBM Tech Trends Report —a study surveying 1,200 information technology decision makers, 250 academics, and 450 students in 13 countries— sixty percent of the enterprises polled reported a lack of skills in high-growth technology spaces, including areas such as business analytics and mobile development. The numbers were equally startling across academia: 75 percent of the academics and students polled noted a lag among institutions in providing students with the critical skills needed to excel within the IT space primarily due to the slow pace of curricula updates and the costs entailed in procuring the requisite hardware and software.

The need is just as evident today as, between now and 2022, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a faster-than-average increase in employment opportunities for computer and information research scientists.

Employers across virtually every industry vertical are seeking job candidates who possess the skills to leverage the capabilities of Big Data to uncover new insights and help organizations better problem solve, respond to key findings, swiftly enter new markets, and gain faster competitive advantages.

To this end, it is critical that college students have access to programs that will help position them for future job success. Students should seek out courses that offer a wide range of products and solutions that can help enhance their resume and enable them to develop competitive skills on the latest industry-standard software, systems, and tools.

Similarly, colleges and universities must actively foster and promote a unique learning environment in order to facilitate skill development for students, allowing them to focus more on principles and techniques rather than solely on infrastructure. Colleges and universities need the opportunity to take advantage of initiatives like those offered by technology organizations to help bridge the gap between student preparedness and the needs of their future employers.

Research and projects are already underway around the world leveraging these partnerships. For example, a project at Virginia Tech aims to create new algorithms and software to help optimize models in ongoing projects in systems biology and aerospace engineering. At NYU, students have been enabled to gain first-hand experience in dealing with large structured and unstructured datasets to achieve new insights. Thanks to these initiatives, students continue to gain important skills in data warehousing, ETL, and optimization.

There is a big opportunity out there for private companies, colleges, universities, and students. By partnering with colleges and universities around the world, and providing the infrastructure or software tools needed to train students, technology companies have a direct hand in preparing students for the realities of the workplace. Academic institutions have an opportunity to further enrich their curricula with advanced technology. Ultimately, these new tools and opportunities will help the next generation of professionals develop their technology skills, and fill in a much needed gap in this ever changing technology landscape.

Terri Virnig is VP of Power Ecosystem and Strategy at IBM.

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