Tech skills crucial to any career, students say

No longer exclusive to the data center sect, high-tech skills considered necessary for several professions

Students want to be tech-savvy to succeed across several job industries, not just IT, according to a survey from IBM and Marist College.

College students pursuing myriad careers agree that high-tech skills will take them further, and a majority expect to encounter new technologies they will have to master in the workforce.

Eighty percent of more than 1,600 college students polled anticipate running into new technology that they will have to adapt to and learn upon entering the workforce. More than 50% are seeking to improve their technology skills before they graduate, with technology being the top skill students want to enhance, followed by writing and marketing talents.

"The survey results show that students understand they need the ability to leverage technology for their employers across many careers," says Mark Hanny, vice president of IBM's Academic Initiative. IBM performed the survey with the help of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, which polled 1,613 college-enrolled undergraduates nationwide.

"Students are realizing they can benefit in specific industries such as healthcare or energy if they are tech-savvy," Hanny says.

Hanny explains many companies today want "T-shaped employees," meaning those with a broad knowledge base that can be applied across the business, but also a deep understanding of their specific field, such as engineering or nursing. Such demands in the workforce partly drive universities to offer interdisciplinary courses among engineering, computer science and business schools, for instance.

"Studying IT and technology in a broader sense is the right approach; it helps students understand how technology is applied to various businesses to help streamline operations," he says.

And while 60% of those surveyed said personal use and experience have shaped their perception of technology, they want more formal training. For instance, 99% of those surveyed own a cell phone, 97% have a profile on a social networking site, and 93% own a laptop. The results also show that 75% of those polled identified themselves as "inspired by computers and technology" and seven out of 10 "view technology as the future."

"The key takeaway for IBM and our Academic Initiative is that now saying you have IT skills doesn't mean you are locked up in the data center or stuck in a server room," Hanny says. "IT is being embraced by students as a core competency across many professions and no longer considered a narrow, specialized skill set."

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