October 5, 2021
Given the change of course that has happened in the world, we wanted to provide expert opinions on what aspiring graduates can do to start off their careers in an uncertain economic climate. We wanted to know what skills will be more important, where the economy is doing relatively well, and if there will be any lasting effects on the job market.
Companies are looking for candidates that can handle the new responsibilities of the job market. Recent graduates actually have an advantage because they are comfortable using newer technologies and have been communicating virtually their whole lives. They can take what they've learned and apply it immediately.
We spoke to professors and experts from several universities and companies to get their opinions on where the job market for recent graduates is heading, as well as how young graduates entering the industry can be adequately prepared. Here are their thoughts.
Texas A&M University San Antonio
Lawrence Technological University
University of Nebraska at Omaha
Grand Valley State University
Texas A&M University San Antonio
Computer Information Systems Department
Robert Vinaja Ph.D.: The skills that stand out will depend on the job position you apply for. I do not think there is a set of universal skills that will stand out for any job. Instead, your resume skills must match the expected requirements for a specific job.
Robert Vinaja Ph.D.: -Ability to work as part of a team.
-Attention to detail.
-Problem-solving and analytical skills.
Robert Vinaja Ph.D.: -Programming.
-Understand algorithms and data structures.
Robert Vinaja Ph.D.: My personal view is that instead of following the skills that command higher salaries, one should focus on a field that you like and feel at ease with. Instead of following the money, one should follow your heart, and money will eventually follow.
Anthony Baron: The main soft skills I would say are needed for Computer Science software engineering are patience, perseverance, creativity, respect, teamwork, and openness to learning and teaching. Programming involves a lot of trial and error, researching, and learning better techniques for solving a problem. Due to this, patience and perseverance to reach the final goal in mind are crucial. When it comes to the learning aspect, there are many languages, frameworks, and libraries, and working with them involves a steeper learning curve than others. On top of this, there are often more elegant ways to program a solution, and many new frameworks and libraries are released throughout the industry. This is where patience and perseverance is also a virtue. Lastly, programming and creating a product are often done in teams, where working together and learning from each other is important.
Anthony Baron: The main technical/ hard skills, I would say, are mainly the same as in part 1. Another hard skill that will come through with experience in programming is learning how to Google, more specifically knowing exactly what to search to solve an issue in the code.
Anthony Baron: By earning, do you mean financially, career-wise, or most growth? Career-wise, it really depends on what the final goal is. For web developers, learning the programming languages and frameworks for web development would be the way to go. In general, any experience with programming and knowing a little about a lot will be helpful. Having top-level theory knowledge (some but not in-depth) is also very helpful. It will help you better understand what is happening under the hood and determine which methods are more efficient than others. Financially, it really depends on what skills are most in-demand today. Also, getting a Masters opens doors to more job opportunities, and in some companies, allows for a pay increase. However, this is not the case everywhere.
Mario Bkassiny Ph.D.: In addition to their academic skills, young graduates should be able to effectively communicate across multiple platforms and be able to adapt to changing work environments. Given the various means of communications and collaborations that are available nowadays, young graduates should be able to clearly express their ideas either in a video conference or through the traditional email communications. Effective communication will be essential to succeed as a member of any engineering team.
Mario Bkassiny Ph.D.: There has been recently a great focus on certain engineering technologies that enable smart systems with fast communications abilities. This has led to a revolution in several technologies such as robotics, artificial intelligence, wireless communications and cloud computing. Innovation in these fields will be essential in the upcoming years in order to keep up with the social and economic needs of modern life. The benefits of these innovations will have a long-lasting effect on our society.
Mario Bkassiny Ph.D.: Young graduates should continuously seek every learning opportunity to enhance their professional skills. With the fast growth of engineering technology, it is important for engineers to remain up to date with the most recent innovations in their fields. The learning process does not stop at graduation, but instead, it extends beyond college to the workplace where engineers can gain expert knowledge in their fields.
Oriehi Destiny Anyaiwe: There is a high possibility that the impact of the coronavirus pandemic will endure but one cannot easily put a time frame to it. This impact will be felt by everyone, not just graduates or computer science graduates in particular. Jobs have been lost, companies are finding it hard to turn a profit and some are needing to close, whereas some others like the tech companies are prospering and doing well. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the scope and teaching of computer science courses including students' senior projects and research have been coined to groom students to meet unprecedented standards. Thus, I can confidently say that computer science graduates stand at an advantageous position in the post pandemic marketplace; however, there will still be hills to climb so long as the synergy that hitherto existed between the crop of companies suffer.
Oriehi Destiny Anyaiwe: What's a day at work going to look like for a recent graduate?
This pandemic has highly promoted keeping to one's space. A typical day at work be it work-from-home (online), traditional in-person or hybrid will naturally divide the work force into two groups; employees who perform best as lone players vs the socialists/collaborationist. Today, most companies keep as many employees as they can online. Workers are beginning to reorganize their lives around this type of schedule, and they are growing their comfort with this new norm. I think that there are sundry reasons why expectations from employers and employees will have to be adjusted in this regard post pandemic era.
Oriehi Destiny Anyaiwe: Attitude. Anyone can memorize a programming language and have a perfect syntax, but if you cannot find your way out of a paper bag you do the company no good. In today's marketplace, problems/business are tackled with a collaborative view. Employers will like to hire employees that have the skill set and potential to explain problems/solutions to non experts as well as working amicably with them.
University of Nebraska at Omaha
College of Information Science & Technology
Deepak Khazanchi Ph.D.: Employment in the computer and information technology field were expected to grow by 11 percent between 2019 and 2029, according to the United States Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). I do not think this will be lower post-Covid; in fact the demand for talented IT workers will substantively higher.
I also think general understanding of these important emerging areas will become important for non-IT employees as well. I would argue that all jobs will be "tech" jobs to some extent as automation and industry 4.0/5.0 takes hold across sectors; all college graduates will need to have exposure, if not competence, in aspects of technology that affect all business functions.
Deepak Khazanchi Ph.D.: Please refer to the prior response for purely technical skills; however, I believe that beyond "technical" skills, capabilities such as abstraction, computational thinking, problem solving, sensemaking, empathy, and multidisciplinarity of thinking will become important assets.
Deepak Khazanchi Ph.D.: I think the "best" and "interesting" jobs in my view will be those that leverage emerging technical skills such as AI/ML, data analytics, cybersecurity and medical informatics, with the nontechnical capabilities mentioned above.
Chirag Parikh Ph.D.: The biggest trend according to me right now would be digital transformation of workplace. Workplace activities that were happening in-person has now become virtual and technology literacy is going to play a vital role. Cross disciplinary expertise is also going to be very crucial.
Biggest trends in job market according to me would be in the area of robotics, automation, AI, software development, cyber-security and healthcare for sure. This pandemic has created a sense of health awareness among people and we are seeing lot of students opting for healthcare programs (undergraduate and graduate).
Chirag Parikh Ph.D.: It is given that technical skills are required as you enter the job market. In the area of Computer Engineering, I feel that graduates should have a breadth of knowledge in most areas of computer engineering and a greater depth of knowledge in at least one area. Programming skills are of utmost importance, as you might not know every possible programming language or its syntax but the basic understanding of programming logic is necessary.
I personally value debugging skills as a must to have as having this makes you a well-rounded engineer no matter what area of engineering you belong to. Next in my list is technical writing and verbal communication skill. Most of the engineers are known to underperform in this skill. I value this skill, as employers would want their engineers to be able to create technical documents as well as present their design to other co-workers and sometimes to other stakeholders.
The last skill I feel that employers would like their employees to have would be to work in a multidisciplinary environment with co-workers from different branches of engineering and other backgrounds.
Chirag Parikh Ph.D.: If you ask me, I consider valuable experience over good paycheck. Once you have gained that experience the paycheck will follow. As soon as you are out of college, the knowledge gained is very fresh and raring to go. If put into the right place can enhance your technical skills and you can do wonders.
As a Computer Engineering professor, I would say the job opportunities are tremendous for students out of college as they can venture into hardware field (technical support, hardware engineer, test engineer and much more) as well as software field (software engineer, software developer, software tester and much more). The possibilities are endless.
With COVID and employees working remotely there is still ample opportunity to enhance your technical and interpersonal skills as I believe remote working might stay for a while till things get back to normal.
School of Business
George Miller: Yes. I think this idea of working from home is here to stay. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic companies had a reluctance in allowing individuals to work from home. But companies were forced to have employees work from home during the pandemic and are seeing in the data that productivity has not suffered (Schrotenboer, 2020). Graduates will enter the workforce facing a different environment than any previous generation. Graduates with a degree in information systems (IS) should be geared more to working remotely because of their technology knowledge and their ability to learn quickly about new and different technology. An IS degree is often housed in a business school at a college (but students take a higher concentration of information system and technology classes). Many students do not end up working in their field of study (O'Shaughnessy, 2013). So IS graduates can easily slide into management roles not related to information systems and have the skill sets to remotely manage subordinates.
George Miller: Many organizations realize graduates cannot learn everything in college about their major but want the graduate to have a solid foundation on their field of study. The organization wants to mold the graduate to their company environment with how they do things related to the field of study. Most companies want college graduates to have good communication skills (both oral and written), critical thinking skills and be able to work well in teams. These skills have been a staple for graduates since I can remember. This is why a college graduate takes many general education courses related to these skills and many of their major courses emphasize these skills.
Going back to the previous answer I believe graduates in all fields of study will need a better knowledge of technology and easier adaptability to changing technology. Again, an IS degree is already preparing students for this.
George Miller: For graduates any experience stands out on a resume and it does not need to be related to their field of study. I tell students to do whatever to get experience. This can be with community volunteer work, at their college through clubs and organization and with professional employment.
There are many organization and government paid internship and co-op opportunities for students within all fields. There is no reason why every student cannot find some sort of internship/co-op during a summer break. Many times, an internship/co-op turns into full time employment. Often high schools and colleges are doing major technology upgrades within the summer months (because they are shut down during this period) and would welcome a student as an IS major as an intern. But volunteer work at the local church or favorite charity can also provide valuable experience. As I opened with this answer any experience stands out on a resume. The experience shows that a graduate has drive and determination.