Graduates: Friendly tool for a mean operator: Nowadays, computer skills are integral to most organisations, says Philip Schofield - skills all graduates should make their business

Although some 3,500 graduates a year enter information technology (IT), about half having read computing, a much larger number will make significant use of it during their careers.

The information revolution started in the mid-1940s with the first electronic computer. For some years the technology and programmes were impenetrable to the layman - including the end user. Managements feared computer specialists were becoming the most powerful people in an organisation because they controlled access to all the information.

Computing capacity has since grown at a phenomenal rate, costs continue to fall, applications have increased, and they have become much more user-friendly. For most organisations computing has become an integral part of their business with the software accessible by the end user.

Those employed in IT, with the exception of those who design computers and control programmes, can no longer hide behind 'black-box' technology and an operating system which needs a professional computer operator. Today's operator may be anyone from a nurse to a consulting engineer. The end user now has direct access to the system.

This in turn has changed the type of person employers look for. In many areas of IT - increasingly called management services - your computing skills will be no more important than your knowledge of the area in which you work. Moreover,

because you will be dealing with non specialists, you must be able to describe your work clearly in non-technical language. This calls for communication skills of a high order.

Instead of recruiting specialists, employers are recruiting generalists and giving them the knowledge of the business combined with IT skills.

Of all the employers advertising computing and management services vacancies in Graduate Opportunities 1994 (GO), 60 per cent accept any discipline while a few more accept 'any numerate or logical discipline'. For example, IBM say they accept graduates from any discipline, but that for more technical posts 'degree backgrounds with an element of computing are obviously relevant'. Logica plc asks for any numerate or logical discipline but adds 'arts graduates who can show a keen interest in IT will also be considered'.

If the applications end of the job market is opening up, those entering the design and systems side are if anything becoming more specialised. There are now many postgraduate courses which focus on areas like neural network artificial intelligence and signal processing. The people coming out of these courses will be looking for posts in design and systems.

Now, even artificial intelligence is within the scope of the PC and the end user. Computer scientists at University College in London, for example, are pioneering the way to integrate the latest artificial intelligence techniques - such as expert systems, neural networks and genetic algorithms - with standard business tools such as spreadsheets and databases.

Initial users of this system will be financial institutions who are keen to employ articificial intelligence techniques but who have so far been hampered by the difficulties of incorporating them into existing systems.

The team has developed an 'object oriented software architecture'. Hansa, enables standardisation between software houses letting new applications be built up out of existing software like building blocks.

The widening gap between technical specialists and generalists entering IT will continue. A growing number of generalists already make IT only part of their career, progressing to other management functions. In the longer term, IT will probably become no more than one of many tools in a manager's portfolio. It is time for every graduate to improve and maintain their computing skills.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Recruitment Genius: Nursery Pre School Practitioner

£6 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Due to continued expansion, they are loo...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development & Relationship Manager

£45000 - £90000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Development & Relati...

Recruitment Genius: Personal Assistant - Startup

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Personal Assistant is require...

Guru Careers: Graduate Software Developer / Junior Developer

£20 - 28k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate Software Develop...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific