IBM, South Carolina work to boost enrollment in IT classes

BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina has 2,200 IT employees and plenty of open positions. Despite the flagging economy, officials at the Columbia-based insurer are working on new ways to overcome the difficulty of finding people with the right skills to fill those jobs.

In this economy, any worry about filling an IT job may prompt a head-scratching moment, even with the U.S. this year by just over 2% through November. BCBS officials note that enrollment in computer science programs is down in the U.S., and many of those in such programs aren't learning the in many corporate data centers.

"There has just been a growing chasm between what the computer science programs produce and what we as businesses, the business of IT, really need," said Lonnie Emard, the director of staff resource management at BCBS in South Carolina.

About 18 months ago, BCBCS of South Carolina joined with and the University of South Carolina to address what some see as a disconnect between job functions and academic programs, as well as to find ways to boost enrollment in university technology programs. Those efforts led to this month's unveiling of the Consortium for Enterprise Systems Management, which is charged with increasing the "pipeline" of students graduating with the right IT skills to fill available jobs. Emard noted that many companies still need to fill significant numbers of jobs requiring . He said that his firm processes 800 million claims a year on mainframe systems.

The consortium, which is looking to add new business and academic members, plans an extensive outreach effort, including the use of social networking sites such as , to let university students know of specific skills sought by corporate IT operations.

Emard said college graduates looking to work in IT need expertise in three broad areas to meet the requirements of businesses today: analytical skills; an understanding of basic businesses decision-making processes; and varied technology skills. Those skills should include expertise in software, IT infrastructures, high-volume data management and databases.