The Next Generation Workforce at Universities

Preparing students for next generation 21st Century

It’s a gross understatement to say that the business world has become more technical over the past generation. With the proliferation of technologies used to meet business needs, the skill sets that enterprises require are in a constant state of change. Business leaders now need employees who understand and apply technology to solve business problems; they expect new hires emerging from colleges and universities to spearhead these efforts. Why? These young adults came of age with myriad gadgets and applications that make them at home in a business world where omnipresent computers, smartphones, and more give every job a technical component.

Evaluation is required on how universities and their IT departments should prepare students to enter and compete in a technology-driven business landscape. In conducting in-depth interviews with 10 academics teaching in professional tracks at universities and 10 human resources (HR) professionals at enterprises (1,000+ employees), it was found that while technology is lightly incorporated into degree paths, businesses assume that graduates are highly skilled technology natives, ready to hit the ground running. As such, those graduates who combine an understanding of theory, mastery of soft skills, and awareness of technology’s place in business stand out as business-ready employees.

Because educators give students a glimpse into how technology applies to business theory, and business leaders look for mastery of these technologies to differentiate job candidates, IT departments at universities need to provide tools that are akin to what students will encounter in business. Doing so will help students hone, in the classroom and on their own, the skills necessary to be successful in business.

Study yielded the following key findings:University

Some are viewed as being very technically skilled. Because they grew up with computers, ubiquitous Internet access, and a range of Web-enabled applications such as social networks and instant messaging, its assumed young adults can immediately thrive in the very technical workplace. As such, many university professors bypass basic computer and productivity software training; however, business leaders look to younger employees to quickly pick up and run with applications that their companies are rolling out.

Students learn about technology in business with hands-on experiences. Outside of programs like computer science and highly specialized business tracks, expressly teaching students how to use specific applications is rarely part of a professional major path. Professors instead focus on providing their pupils with the principles and practices of the fields the students plan to enter. Technology is used to illustrate points and provide demonstrations on how tools are specifically applied in business settings. To make this real, students need to use the technology in settings like internships or other contextual experiences.

Business leaders seek business-ready employees who can apply technology at work. While young entrants into the workforce may be deft in using consumer technology, this does not mean that they understand how it applies to business. Thus, while HR managers find that some are technically savvy, they seek applicants who understand how businesses operate, can foster good working relationships with colleagues, and can apply their technical skills to help the company use technology more efficiently and effectively.