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back to article Computer grads can't even get jobs offering personal services

Computer science graduates have even less chance than media studies grads of being in gainful employment six months after leaving college, government figures show. Latest figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency show in 2008/2009, 1375 of the 8090 computer science students it could track down six months after …

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Low quality compsci garduates

Perhaps it has something to do with the abysmal quality of recent computer science graduates.

At my previous job we were recruiting and interviewed the best of the bunch who claimed to have good C, C++ or C# experience on their CV's. We gave them a little puzzle which involved writing some code to solve an anagram given text file dictionary. We weren't expecting a fully debugged program in the language of their choice after half an hour, but at least something to indicate they understood the problem and could break it down in to logical steps. Many of them didn't manage a single line of code, and most didn't have a clue on how to read a word from a one word per line text file. In the end we rejected all the graduates and went for a guy in his late 50's, who might of started on Cobol, but had the thought process of a programmer.

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Couldn't agree with you more!!! You took the words out of my mouth.

Definitely, the level of most (not all) university graduates from the field of computer science/engineering is much lower than it was ten years ago. The Universities have severely watered down the curriculum so that they can accept more students etc etc. If you want graduates with a high level look at some of the blue chip companies and see from where they are hiring . Intel for example hires most of its R&D people from Israel, even a large amount of Intel's R&D staff in the states comes from Israel. Also significant amount of university graduates are ex Soviet Union who had a very good schooling in maths.

Want a better level graduate, you can't throw so much money away at revamping t he Banks of the world.We need to invest more money in education. You get what you pay for!

Invest in what matters , education.

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True Story

A company in the UK places add for "Programmer" and gets 40 applicants. The company tests applicants and find them to be mostly wankers and so places a second advertisement in the local paper. More CV's arrive and the girl who's employed to clean the office and empty the trash sees the advert and applies too - except that her spoken English is very poor (even for a graduate of a Russian University).

Everyone laughs and gives a copy of the test to the girl as well - the test is to write a short program that can parse a serial data stream from a port given the data format. Everyone gets a day to complete the test - the catch here is that there are some errors in the stream ... it's a real time, real life test.

When they look at the results - most of the submitted programs are huge and don't work or crash when errors appear - except for the Russian girls program - which works, it's tiny yet includes a test harness to demonstrate its operation and full error trapping and diagnostic dumps when the serial stream contained errors.

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Headmaster

It's always something

"... who might of started on Cobol..."

The old guy might have demonstrated better English language skills as well.

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Unhappy

Inadequate Standards for Such Technical Education → Low quality compsci garduates

Call me a nut - which I'm sure some people would be happy to - but I've been glad to avoid college about comp. sci, if simply to avoid having to inherit any one teacher's personal views of the matters involved with the same (as would well be required that one would at least discern and acknowledge, or just play along with, so in order to pass any one oh-so-beloved course)

I'm sure that most chief boffins would naturally hedge themselves at the accusation, but I proceed about it anyway: I myself don't feel I can be so sure that computer science is actually understood so very well, these days, even by persons electing themselves to teach about it.

I say that not to send off any alarm bells, but rather, to call for a lot more candor, in the comp-sci-school environment

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Debugged error-free title.

Did she get the job?

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Heart

@ Version 1.0

Girl geek, yay!

[I trust she got the job...]

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Yes

Yes - She worked there for several years afterward - the people running the company were not fools.

We talked about it - her theory was that she'd been forced to learn to program efficiently because the machines and software that the Russian University could afford were old and very basic ... however on arriving in the UK (husband moved to take a job locally) nobody would even look at her qualifications because of her thick accent and everyone "knew" that the Russian Universities were antiquated.

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Anonymous Coward

Watering down

The real problem is that university departments are more highly stressed by the need to perform in the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) than in undergraduate teaching. The teaching funding is not ring fenced to teaching, so is top sliced to inflate the Vice Chancellors salary, and much of what is left is diverted to pay for research that fails to attract its own funding.

Under Graduate teaching resource has been dissipated, and students are taught by researchers with less interest in supporting under graduates. This system may favour the better students, especially in top departments with secure funding for research. The proportion of researchers who do not have a secure capability in the English language has greatly increased, and is unhelpful to students.

Departments in less prestigious universities take weaker students who need the more concerned teaching that was a feature of the former polytechnics. But, these institutions are pressured to "research" to boost their reputation, and to fund the research from the undergraduate teaching stream.

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Anonymous Coward

Can't say I'm surprised

What with the eleventy million kids going to uni, all of them wanting to study computer science and then sitting about waiting for that cushty job they were promised to simply materialise because they have a bit of paper.

I was a building site labourer for 6 months with a masters in mechanical engineering because it was better than the dole and sometimes life isn't all roses all the way through. Sometimes life serves you a big slice of shit pie and you have to take a bite

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Not surprised either

CS graduates are being pumped out faster than jobs are being created.

Combine this with modern outsourcing trends (in the US anyways) and we end up with CS being a very high risk career.

Those who already have cushy CS jobs are probably safe, those who are younger will just have to deal with fewer prospects than in the past.

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The more things change, and all that

Much the same thing here when I graduated 20 years ago; my qualifications got me six months' manual labour in a factory! It was a little galling seeing endless tech companies bemoaning the lack of candidates with work experience whilst none of them were prepared to offer it: "come back when you've been working for one/three/five years" being a common response to the dozens if not hundreds of applications I sent off. It was at least small consolation that my situation wasn't unusual, though.

I think most galling of all was being given the choice to do a "useful" HND in computer science or an "alternatively useful" degree in sociology: I went for computer science, only to subsequently find literature from local tech companies typically boasting that all its staff had degrees - but all in sociology and the like. In one particularly egregious example I don't think they had a single technically-qualified member of staff on their IT team.

I'll be the first to admit that not all IT graduates have the sun shining out of their collective arses, but some of the metrics used to recruit staff are even more questionable. Though I also have to admit some of the best staff I've worked with started off as secretaries and receptionists.

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Anonymous Coward

Depends..

......on from where they graduated.

Also the comparison with Media Studies only holds water if you factor in where said graduates are working - I'd wager its mostly a junior job in a non-media related role, whereas most Comp Sci graduates are working in 'puters with a decent career path ahead.

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its alright the tories are going to bring back manufacturing

Maybe media studies people are working at mcdonalds - the article doesn't seem to say despite the fact it uses them for a comparison in the headline

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Paris Hilton

"Maybe media studies people are working at mcdonalds"

What a waste of their talents, they would be far more suited to working in a cinema or maybe a newsagents.

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I think you will find...

that "personal services" = "Do you want fries with that?"

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Go

"Personal Services"

Assuming the stats were using HMRC's definition of a Personal Services Company, that simply means that a lot of biologists have started or joined very very small companies. In fast, the only reliable definition of a "Personal Service Company" I could find was here: http://www.contractorcalculator.co.uk/what_is_a_personal_service_company.aspx

relating to contractors.

"And so the term personal service company began to be used by HMRC to describe businesses they considered as tax evaders and potentially the subject of tax investigations. "

And this is HMRC's take: http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/ir35/

Of course this is much more boring than assuming the statistics mean there are 165 prostitutes or escorts who could represent you in court.

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Joke

What a service!

I'll get you off twice.

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Sights set too high?

Someone "studying" for a degree in tourism, or hospitality (or even history or media) pretty much knows which side of the counter they will spend their working lives. Until, that is, it's their turn to clean the tables.. However CS graduates come out of university, optimistically clutching their little bits of paper, with all the hopes they had when they were persuaded to start the course: IT is a growing industry, lots of job opportunities, well paid, interesting work and all the other stuff their clueless careers advisors told them about in school.

However, sit them down in an office and ask them to look into why a particular piece of SQL runs slow, or why those 6 users take 5 minutes to log in, or how to remotely install printers in the Cardiff office and all you'll get is a blank look. That's not what they signed up for! They wanted to write the next generation of games - singlehandedly. Ask them, at interview, about configuring a firewall or the pros and cons of W2K8 verses RHEL and they'll probably start to cry.

In fact there's not that much that a new CS graduate can do for a company that a school leaver with a "For Dummies" book couldn't. But without the salary requirements needed to pay off their student loan. Personally I feel that anyone wanting to work in IT would be better off learning to drive, than getting a degree. They'll still have to be trained in everything, but at least they would have the mobility to work in places without tube trains.

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WTF?

Wrong mentality

Perhaps employers should realise that a CS graduate is not there as a Microsoft or Linux monkey. You are not trained in university to be a Microsoft or Linux engineer. You are taught about the basic principles that govern the I.T world. You are learning a little bit of everything so you can specialise in the future in an area of your choice.

Someone with a "For Dummies" book will not be able to organise a company network or create a plan for future upgrades . They won't be able to design a network with X amount of server and workstations.

If you are looking for a Linux or MS monkey then go find someone certified by those companies. You will find their abilities quite limited to what their vendor provides. If you want a programmer then go find someone who spent their years programming because CS graduates usually only know the basic concepts of programming and can only do basic stuff.

If you want someone who can manage a group of MS/Linux/C++/SQL etc etc then that is what your CS graduate is for. He will at least be able to communicate with his team and understand what they are talking about and he will be able to plan a course of action on a given problem.

Employers are under the illusion that a CS graduate is a one-man-army that can magically solve any computer problem you throw at him.

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Anonymous Coward

what you're describing

sound suspiciously like a middle manager to me.

sitting around the office, gut hanging over the sides of his chair, doing a whole lot of not-very-much. probably fuck things right up then resign before the shit hits the fan.

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Rubbish

Your comments are not even true. A decent CS grad will have spent most of their time learning to program, or learning about the algorithms behind the code. Are you trying to claim that most programmers are not CS grads? The course you're describing sounds like some dodgy post-grad "How to be an IT manager" crap or something.....

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that's a bad manager

I am not talking about someone who does nothing. A real manager has lots of work to do and has to constantly work with the team. I am talking about a manager who has a vision and understands the strengths and weaknesses of his team. I am talking about someone who can sit down and have a technical discussion with his team so they can create a good product.

If you don't need such a manager in your company then most likely you are running a very small company that is better off with some certified engineer who can troubleshoot little problems here and there.

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Visual Studio Technicians

Frank 6 says, "Perhaps employers should realise that a CS graduate is not there as a Microsoft or Linux monkey. You are not trained in university to be a Microsoft or Linux engineer. You are taught about the basic principles that govern the I.T world." When I was interviewing candidates for a position the above is exactly what I found, Visual Studio Technicians masquerading as CS Graduates. They couldn't grasp any solution that didn't have a canned Visual Studio solution.

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Whose Sights?

Who would expect a biology graduate to be able to remove your tonsils? Thankfully not the NHS, who take promising science graduates (and those that specialised in medical undergrads) and trained them up over the course of many years of blended practical and academic training that often continues throughout their working lives.

Perhaps the everlasting skill shortage crisis in computing (that feeds the careers advising beast) and the appallingly high unemployment rate is more to do with cheap employers expecting everyone else to pay for what most other businesses proved as part of the employee on-boarding process.

Since when was a 3 year degree supposed to be an apprenticeship? Undergraduate degrees are for giving a deep dive for anyone interested in further academic study and useful as a guide to the relative ability/intelligence of potential employees.

The computing industry was built by people that had no idea how to even operate a computer (they had very good typists for that), but had degrees that demonstrated they were far from dummies, which was useful because any specific computing skills they did learn in Uni were destined for obsolescence in a decade so they needed the smarts to keep up. Things have changed, no longer are slumming maths and science graduates being converted into computing gurus, but just because most graduates come with some languages and skills preloaded doesn't change the fact that the employer has still got to integrate a graduate.

Computing may have more than its fair share of opportunists (though hopefully less since the first dot.com bubble); some would be happier studying HNDs (e.g., perhaps focusing on much revered DBA/sysadmin skills), some should be planted in a field.. never to touch a computer... ever, some will go on to software design roles, and some will go wee-wee-wee at the thought of ever leaving CS academia.

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Actually...

Actually where i work, most computer programmers are Engineering grads. We only have one CS grad in the whole building. We have 2 electrical engineers, 2 mechanical engineers, 1 Aerospace enginneer, a law graduate, one single CS grad, and a former english teacher. (And we are a Legal information company, not an engineering company)

Problem solvers.

Thats what it comes down to.

Knowledge isnt enough. You can pick knowledge up. Training in problem solving is much more difficult to come by.

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Anonymous Coward

8090 computer science graduates in a year?

Although they are described as computer science graduates, this classification includes students of every computer related subject. So it doesn't tell us very much at all. More detailed statistics will, apparently, be published in August.

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Anonymous Coward

Graduate

Recently graduated and to be honest barely anyone in my class hasn't got a job, maybe 2008/9 was just a bad year. Does this grouping include all IT (computer games design etc)? Or only computer science?

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Headmaster

Re: Graduate

>> barely anyone in my class hasn't got a job

Perhaps you mean 'almost everyone in my class has a job'?

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Grenade

The standard of students these days!

I get prospective employees (I don't even bother with anyone having less than an MSC from a UK University) to write about their journey to the interview. That way I find out if they can actually write with a pen, if they can spell, use punctuation, and actually construct a narative. So many fail on all of the above!!!

An earlier poster mentioned a Russian girl - I once employed a Ukranian who looked and sounded as though he'd had one too many fights with a bear (he was about the same size), but he was a wonderfully tight coder. The only problem I had with him was that he made a Chinese bloke learn English from Roger Melly's Prophanosourace! I swear that he thought "you dirty git" was the equivalent of "good morning", but again he was a good coder.

For an example to my daughter who is studying for GCSE's I sat a Biology past paper last week. I scored 100% - not bad for someone who has never studied Biology!!! Carefully reading the multiple choice questions always gave the answer, even when I did not know the specialist terms - papers like that are completely spoonfeeding the students, and it's no wonder that they get such high marks.

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WTF?

Really?

I cant say I find recruiting graduates particularly easy. If I put adds on Monster I get flooded with immigrant graduates with visa issues. The university graduate recruiting network is no better and not much cheaper. In fact I would say more expensive.

I left with the impression that the computer graduates were being snapped up before I got a look in.

So what the heck is going on? Or at the stats distorted by foreign students?

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Title

We've had a lot of luck with graduates this year - which surprised me given that in the past I've had the same issues with visas etc.

Advertised directly with the local university compsci departments - and by advertised, I mean asked them to email round a job ad for us. Cost nothing and seemed to get us a decent set of applicants.

We were a bit behind with things this year (well, really a lot) and only starting seriously looking in March. I had expected all of the good ones would have been snapped up too but I was pleasantly surprised and we managed to hire several.

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More likely to reply?

Firstly those who are jobless are likely to have more time on their hands to respond, and they probably feel like a whinge too... likely skewing the statistics upwards...

Secondly, was this an electronic survey? Something unemployed CS graduates are probably quite likely to reply to...

Hmmm how good are the stats?

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Dedication

I was a reasonable student at University, I attended most lectures and I did ok in the end.

Although I wasn't the best in my fields, I had dedication to help me. After graduating, in the space of three months I applied for around 300 jobs. I did free work to gain field experience and when I started my first job as IT administrator for a product company, I was still working two jobs. After 6 months, the company I had done free work for approached me and offered me a job.

It may not be the best solution but it payed off well and I'm enjoying everything I do!

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Rob
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Your a credit to yourself....

... now go and teach the lazy scum who think that once they graduate they should be offered a job on a platter.

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Perhaps...

Perhaps it could be to do with the fact that most people coming out of Uni want to twaddle their thumbs for a few years... we're a C# development firm and want to expand but can't find good enough people!

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Anonymous Coward

c# programmers? really.

I don't want to offend but this is exactly the attitude in companies that annoys me and costs them.

I'm doing a mass-load of data into a database, for which I need to reformat at least 25 gig (not meg) of text data to make it suitable for loading. It has to be fast, so I'm rewriting my first attempt in c#. Allocate a big fat byte buffer, fill it from a file then cruise through parsing out the relevant bits and squirting them into the final file. Rinse and repeat the next N thousand files. Plenty of assertions to get it right, decent sanity checks etc and it is snappy indeed, and it's taken me a day and a half. Not too complex. No memory mapping, no fancy I/O.

Then again it's also my first ever use of c# and .net, and probably the first time I've touched an MS compiler/dev environment since 1995-ish.

Point is, you don't want c# programmers, or Java programmers, or c++ programmers, whatever. You want a *programmer*, who by their nature must be a flexible beast, but you call for precisely X because you don't understand that under the surface many of these things are much the same and can be easily transferred between.

And you also don't get that just because a person has five years of Y doesn't mean they're any good at it. Doesn't stop you lot advertising for both with a simple ticklist approach though.

Sorry to sound peeved.

(Anon because it's rude to blow your own strumpet )

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SSIS

Have you tried SSIS in SQL Server? You may not have to write a single line of code (if you know how to use it)

But you need SQL Server.

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Flame

and then you have the complete opposite

Like in my case for example: 1st class honours I.T with 1st class honours in MSc computer networks and making 9£.50 an hour managing 3 physical servers with 2 virtual machines each, running Exchange, ISA, File sharing etc etc. I work in central London at an hourly rate below that of the company's secretary.

Yes, it is a small company but it deals with real estate and there is lots of money involved so there is no excuse for them to treat me like I am the office cleaner.

Posting anonymous for obvious reasons.

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well...

maybe you're not very good?

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not good?

i have singlehandedly upgraded the entire network twice over weekends without sleep and without any problems at all. I have had 0 downtime since i took over (the company had at least 5 hours downtime per week before i took over) and I never had a problem that I could not solve within minutes. I have given them a fully redundant network with fully automated external backups as opposed to the mess they had before involving manual backups daily and severe availability problems.

Yes, I am good at what I do and I am confident and they themselves say that they have no complaints with my work. The problem is that the bosses prefer to give themselves a fat bonus than give me a decent salary. The only reason I am staying with them is because I am working on a PhD at the moment and due to the reliability of the network I got lots of free time to concentrate on my research. But that does not mean they should give me £9.50 per hour every time I have to go change some configuration or apply updates and audit the entire network's security.

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First job is always crap

Your first job will always be crap. Deal with it. Build up your CV and then move on to something better.

My first job was $11 CAD an hour and the job sucked. Now I'm worth $40.

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@First job is always crap

Agreed. My first job out of Uni bounced one of my paychecks.

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[insert title here]

maybe you should be the secretary then

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FAIL

They're paying it because you take it

Have some self respect man, leave!

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Anonymous Coward

Don't call me Shirley

Administering a Windows Network is easy and not proper work.

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RE: not good?

So you redesigned their infrastructure to the point that you near enough made your role redundant yet feel justified in whining that they aren't paying enough? Perhaps the reason you haven't demanded the pay rise you feel you deserve is because your employers realize that you've done all the work and don't really need you all that much.

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What this actually means...

These are government statistics. This means that we will be using all HESA course codes in subject area 25.

(Decrypt: G4xx Computer Science, G5xx IT, G6x Software (and other) Engineering, G7xx AI, G8xx I just don't care).

So the message might more simply have been stated as: if you have a degree in IT, you'll struggle to get a job. The CS students will be a minority amongst the sample included within these statistics. Certainly here in Manchester, our graduates have turned out to be more employable than any others in the science faculty for the last year.

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@Lester

Manchester University and UMIST have for many years produced the most employable graduates.

I remember back in the 1990's successive yearly employer surveys revealing that they prefer Owens and UMIST graduates over and above other universities.

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