Thursday, July 22, 2010

Students are not being prepared for industry

I can only speak about my field (computer vision and image processing), but I imagine the situation is similar across the board. What we learn in college are "the fundamentals" - the theoretical (often too much so) ideas of many topics. We are seldom asked to implement these ideas in software. When we are, it is done with absolutely no consideration of the process - that is, you can use which ever language you want, which ever method you like for revision control (including none!), work by yourself or in a group of your size and choosing, and the list goes on. The only thing that is important is the result. When you get to an industrial setting, exactly the opposite is true. Working on a team of programmers is critical. You must understand how to share responsibilities, ideas, and code. These are the most important skills for success in any real setting, and they are rarely exercised - and definitely not taught - in college.

After a recent interaction with the hiring manager for GE Global Research Center, I have learned that they actually plan for at least an entire year of negative productivity from new students. That is, new hires are an investment. They hire a new student with the intention of training them for at least a year before they start adding value to the company. It seems to me like this transition should be much much smoother. It should (clearly?!) be part of the responsibility of post-secondary education institutions to prepare students for their next life role as an employee.


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