Today, only three percent of college students graduate with technical degrees, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), and anywhere from 500,000 to 1,000,000 IT jobs remain unfilled every year. Tackling this shortage is particularly challenging because while more companies are seeking technical graduates with real-world experience, higher education largely remains focused on knowledge-sharing and developing independent critical thinking.

[Read: “STEM crisis quickly becoming an IT problem.”]

It’s clear that both groups must come together to bridge this gap, but that’s a challenge in itself.

While colleges and universities have tried valiantly to adapt to businesses’ demands, the consensus, and research-based curriculum process, cannot be adapted quickly enough to provide courses that teach up-to-the-minute coding skills needed in the workplace.

Simultaneously, corporations are not typically attuned to the intricacies of academia and the processes that educational institutions employ to prepare graduates for life after college.

However, according to a report from IBM, 57 percent of industry and academic leaders agree that collaboration between business and higher education is necessary to effectively prepare students for the challenges of today’s business world. Fortunately, each side can bring unique attributes and approaches to this collaborative effort, strengthening the prospects for success.

Higher Education Brings Critical Thinking and Blended Skillsets

Universities and colleges provide the foundation of critical thinking skills that every grad needs. This is important since developers no longer just write code–they solve real problems. As such, they need to understand the workplace and how it functions in addition to having great coding skills.

A developer tasked with creating mobile apps for sales or marketing, or systems to analyze regulated financial data, must have a basic understanding of the role of these business units within their organization and the problems their tools will address. They must also develop greater soft skills, such as the ability to work in a collaborative environment and communicate with team members–skills which are not covered in traditional technical courses.

Additionally, colleges and universities have an enormous pool of potential talent at their fingertips, beyond the technical workers who typically apply for coding jobs.

Thus, they can help businesses gain access to the best and brightest from across all disciplines and draw them into technical training programs in ways businesses cannot do on their own.

Given that 30 percent of college grads come from liberal arts or business degree programs, it’s imperative to make sure this talent pool also gains technical skills to avoid increasing the skills gap further. Blending technical and non-technical graduates together on a development team can give an employer a wider range of skills and personalities and a diversity of thought that benefits the products produced and the productivity and culture of the team as a whole.

(Next page: The practical collaboration model for closing the tech skills gap)


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