Knowledge and Skill Requirements for Entry-Level Information Technology Workers: A Comparison of Industry and Academia

Article excerpt

1. INTRODUCTION

Enrollments in Information Technology (IT)-related academic programs have declined significantly in recent years, (Granger, et al., 2007; Patterson, 2005; Pollacia and Russell, 2007). Several studies have investigated potential causes of the enrollment decline, attributing it most often to factors such as curriculum problems (Abraham, et al., 2006; Granger et al., 2007; McGann, et al., 2007), issues that influence students to choose (or not choose) an IT-related major (Walstrom, et al., 2008; Zhang, 2007), lack of availability of accurate information about the IT industry and related employment opportunities to high school students (Lomerson and Pollacia, 2006), and offshore outsourcing of IT jobs (Rossheim, 2006; Tastle, et al., 2008).

The U.S. Department of Labor predicts that employment demand for IT-related professionals will grow much faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2016. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the number of jobs will increase 16% from 2006 to 2016 for the occupation entitled "computer and information systems managers", 37% for "computer scientists and database administrators", and 53% for "network systems and data communications analysts" (Bureau, 2008a; Bureau, 2008b). It is also estimated that the United States will have only half of the qualified graduates needed to meet the rapidly increasing demand for IT professionals through 2012 because of the declining number of student enrollments (Longo, 2006).

To meet anticipated demand, it is urgent for IT-related academic programs to attract more students and prepare graduates with critical knowledge and skills. A number of studies have been conducted to determine the critical knowledge and skill sets that graduates need to perform IT-related jobs successfully, and whether there exists a perception gap between academicians and practitioners with regard to this required body of knowledge and skills (Cappel, 2001/2002; Doke and Williams, 1999; Kim, Hsu and Stern, 2006; Lee and Han, 2008; Lee, et al., 2002; Tang, Lee and Koh, 2000/2001; Trauth, Farwell and Lee, 1993).

In a recent study, the authors compared the perceptions of IT managers and IT workers with respect to the knowledge and skills needed for entry-level IT professionals (Aasheim and Williams, 2009). The purpose of this paper is to investigate whether the importance of various skills for entry-level IT professions is perceived differently by faculty in academia and IT managers in industry. The approach of this study is to conduct a survey of IT managers and faculty teaching in IT-related academic programs to examine their views on the knowledge and skills required of entry-level IT workers.

2. BACKGROUND

Despite the existence of model curricula for computing-related degree programs, several studies suggest that there is a gap between the skills achieved by Information Systems (IS)/Information Technology (IT) graduates and the skills required by employers (Cappel, 2001/2002; Kim, Hsu, and Stern, 2006; Lee and Han, 2008; Lee et al., 2002; Trauth, Farwell, and Lee, 1993; Doke and Williams, 1999; Tang, Lee and Koh, 2000/2001). These studies have examined this gap as it is perceived by IT professionals, academicians, students, and users. Some have made recommendations to improve the IS curriculum (Lee and Han, 2008; Lee, Trauth, and Farwell, 1995; Leitheiser, 1992; Trauth, Farwell and Lee, 1993; Young and Lee, 1996).

Lee and Han (2008) studied skill requirements for entry-level programmers/analysts in Fortune 500 companies and investigated the gap between the IS 2002 model curriculum and the requirements of the industry. They found that application development, software, social and business skills were highly valued, and recommended that knowledge of technological trends, knowledge of business functions and general problem solving skills be taken into account by the designers of future IS curricula. …