ISCAP Proceedings - 2023

Albuquerque NM, November 2023

2023 ISCAP Proceedings: Abstract Presentation

Perceptions of Soft Skills by Computer and Information Technology Students and Professionals: A Preliminary Analysis

Tara Whitson
Tarleton State University

Leah Schultz
Tarleton State University

Specialized skill development, hard skills or technical skills, measure competence and/or ability to complete tasks within Computer and information technology (C&IT) positions and are considered an indicator of expertise (Tokarcíková et al., 2020). C&IT students or professionals working towards career advancement place primary focus on skill development related to a chosen specialization in information technology (Jones et al., 2018). The purpose of this exploratory study is to determine if there will be a significant difference in the perceptions of C&IT students without professional experience compared to C&IT students with professional experience in relation to soft skills. Multiple studies were conducted to determine how soft skills are defined and the importance of these skills for C&IT professionals (Jones et al., 2018; Joseph et al., 2010; Hazlett, 2017; Ahmed et al., 2012). In related studies, C&IT professionals identified important soft skills including: communication, critical thinking, team skills, professionalism, responsibility, and work ethic (Downey et al., 2008; Robles, 2012). In a survey completed by C&IT recruiters, the top five sought after soft skills included (a) teamwork, (b) communication, (c) critical thinking, (d) personal motivation, and (e) creative thinking (Fang et al., 2005). Students enrolled in C&IT programs at a university in the southwestern United States completed a survey that was adapted from an instrument developed by Bailey and Mitchell (2007). Analysis of initial data used independent sample t-tests to compare perceptions of students considering C&IT careers and students currently working as C&IT professionals. Additionally, the survey collected demographic information related to the participants and data will be further analyzed based on these demographic variables. Preliminary Results show significant differences in perceptions of five distinct soft skills between C&IT students without professional experience (n=52) and C&IT students with professional experience (n=47). The total number of soft skills items (n=21) and scoring (1=extremely important to 5=not at all important). The five soft skills that differed between the two groups included the ability to give and receive constructive criticism (t(97)=2.807, p = .006), the ability to multitask (t(97)=2.360, p = .020), interteam communication (t(97)=2.750, p = .007), stress management skills (t(97)=3.431, p = < .001), and teamwork skills (long term) (t(97)=2.810, p = .006). After initial analysis, the next steps are to determine how the study can become more robust and generalizable. Improvements in sample size as well as sample diversity would potentially improve the study along with more advanced statistical analysis where possible. Also, data will be studied in relation to demographics for additional insight. Ultimately, the purpose of this research is to provide a foundation useful in incorporating soft skill curricula for C&IT programs in order to better prepare students for the workforce. Keywords: soft skills, hard skills, technology, employment REFERENCES Ahmed, F., Capretz, L. F., & Campbell, P. (2012). Evaluating the demand for soft skills in software development. IT Professional, 14(1), 44-49. Bailey, J., & Mitchell, R. B. (2007). Industry perceptions of the competencies needed by computer programmers: Technical, business, and soft skills. The Journal of Computer Information Systems, 47(2), 28-33. Downey, J. P., McMurtrey, M. E., & Zeltmann, S. M. (2008). Mapping the MIS curriculum cased on critical skills of new graduates: An empirical examination of IT professionals. Journal of Information Systems Education, 19(3), 351-363. Fang, X., Lee, S., & Koh, S. (2005). Transition of knowledge/skills requirement for entry-level is professionals: An exploratory study based on recruiters’ perception. Journal of Computer Information Systems, 46(1), 58–70. Hazlett, C. (2017, Spring). In praise of soft skills. XRDS: Crossroads, The ACM Magazine for Students, 23(3), 14–15. Jones, K., Leonard, L. N. K., & Lang, G. (2018). Desired skills for entry level IS positions: Identification and assessment. Journal of Computer Information Systems, 58(3), 214–220. Joseph, D., Ang, S., Chang, R. H. L., & Slaughter, S. A. (2010). Practical intelligence in IT: Assessing soft skills of IT professionals. Communications of the ACM, 53(2), 149–154. Robles, M. M. (2012). Executive perceptions of the top 10 soft skills needed in today’s workplace. Business Communication Quarterly, 75(4), 453–465.