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IBM and Marist Survey Shows U.S. College Students Want Technology Skills to Compete for Jobs


ARMONK, NY - Amid concerns that the economic downturn could impact their career plans, eight in 10 U.S. college students see a growing need for more IT professionals as technology advances, according to a survey by IBM (NYSE: IBM) and the Marist Institute for Public Opinion.

The survey of more than 1,600 college students reveals that more than 50 percent are seeking to improve their own technology skills before they graduate. Eight in 10 expect to encounter new technology that they will need to learn, adapt to and master once they enter the workforce.

The findings come at a time when nearly one million technology-related jobs are expected to emerge as a result of President Obama’s $787 billion “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.”

The U.S. government has made a call to action to modernize the nation’s technology infrastructure. This includes digitizing healthcare records, adopting energy efficient practices and expanding broadband networks. As a result, companies will look to hire more software developers, IT consultants and managers who possess both the technology and business skills necessary to support these investments.

While students see an increased need for IT skills, 60 percent surveyed -- part of the generation which has grown up with the Internet and social networking tools -- said personal use and experience have formed their technology skills, leading many to yearn for more formal training in this area.

“The United States is preparing to lead the way in the development of smart technology systems to address some of the world’s most pressing issues,” said Jim Corgel, General Manager, ISV and Developer Relations, IBM. “Businesses and academia must work together to prepare students for these new opportunities.”

Additional survey findings include:

* College students are pervasive users of technology today: 99 percent own a cell phone, 93 percent own a laptop, 97 percent have a profile on a social networking site.

* Three-quarters of college students are inspired by computers and technology and seven in 10 view technology as “the future.”

* Among the skill areas students said they needed to improve, technology, writing and marketing ranked in the top three.

Business and Academia Responds
The survey underscores IBM’s ongoing efforts to help academia identify job market-critical skills, and then adapt and advance their curriculum to better prepare students for the workplace.

Since 2004, IBM’s Academic Initiative program has reached more than 2.5 million university students with software and hardware courses. IBM partners with more than 9,000 academics at 4,600 colleges and universities worldwide.

For example, in California, San José State University is now integrating key technology topics into its core courses in the College of Business.

“Increasingly, we’re moving towards smarter infrastructures that promise to fundamentally change the way we live and work,” said Professor Stephen Kwan, Professor of Management Information Systems at San José State University’s College of Business. “There has never been a better opportunity to ensure we are arming our students with the smart skills for the jobs of the future. We need to develop curriculum that meets the evolving needs of our students and their employers.”

“We hear from companies all the time that need students with a diverse technology skillset. This diversity creates greater opportunity for students, and a better prepared workforce for employers,” added Karen Hayes, Industry Liaison at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. “We are interested in working with IBM to understand the needs and opportunities ahead.”

Companies in the emerging green tech and clean tech spaces also cite the need for employees with specialized skillsets to help build out smarter energy grids and wireless sensors.

“We are facing a very unique situation with the emergence of a digital grid and smart buildings,” notes Peter Van Deventer, President & CEO of SynapSense Corporation. SynapSense, based near Sacramento, California, is a leading provider of wireless instrumentation solutions for energy-efficient data centers, and is poised to benefit from stimulus funding for smart grid projects.

“What we will see is an emerging blend of skills that cross over between the facility and the technology infrastructure itself. And this means we will need a workforce with a balanced set of skills,” he said.

Survey Methodology
An online survey was conducted by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion of 1,613 college-enrolled undergraduates nationwide. The objective of the survey was to assess American college students’ perceptions of their education, skillsets, career goals and technology.

The survey was conducted in the fourth quarter of 2008, from November 4th through November 17th, 2008. It has a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percent.

For more information, visit IBM’s Academic Initiative at:

“What do you want to do with you life?” Students talk about how they see their role in creating a smarter world:


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