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Is your College offering the right kinds of courses?

IT recruiters say college graduates with degrees in Computer Science disciplines lack real programming experience.

Is your College offering the right kinds of courses?

Recently I received an email from an IT recruiter that was pretty troubling. In it, he decried the lack of real programming experience that college graduates with degrees in Computer Science or related disciplines possess.

About the same time, I was speaking to a friend of mine whose daughter was about to graduate from a well regarded university with a degree in Computer Science, and who had just returned from a trip to visit the Dean of Computer Science at his daughter's university.

During the visit, my friend had expressed strong concern that the Computer Science curriculum at his daughter's university was not adequately preparing her, and other graduates, for the 'real world'. In fact, my friend, who happens to be the Vice President of IT for his company, told the dean that he would have a hard time hiring his own daughter for an entry level position at his company. Why?

First, while his daughter could probably build a microprocessor from scratch, and program in languages such as Fortran, C and C++, the university she attended was slow in developing courses covering the latest and greatest in programming languages and development tools. For instance, Visual Basic, ASP and Java were recent additions to the curriculum, and hard to believe, they were only electives. Incredibly, his daughter hadn't taken courses in any of these hot technologies.

Secondly, due to scheduling requirements at the university, she had completed the Computer Science requirements for her degree in the first two and half years of her college career. As a result, her last programming class had been 18 months prior to graduation, and she had spent the last year and a half of her college career fulfilling general education requirements and electives, not honing her skills with computer related courses. In other words, her IT skills were pretty stale.

What was the Dean's reaction? She apologized for the university's slow introduction of new technologies into the curriculum and promised to do better in the future. And she promised to look into the scheduling logjam in the Department that would encourage students to complete their Computer Science requirements so early before graduation.

In summary, if you or someone you know is pursuing a computer related degree at a college or university--do some investigative work to ensure the college is quick to react to new technologies, and 'time' your pursuit of these courses as close as possible to graduation.

Written by John Smiley, MCP, MCSD and MCT, author, and adjunct professor of Computer Science at Penn State University in Abington, Philadelphia University, and Holy Family College. John has been teaching computer programming for nearly 20 years.

John Smiley is president of Smiley and Associates, a computer consulting firm located in New Jersey.

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