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What tech skills gap? Here's what employers want from grads

Four years of college and you're ready for that new job. Too bad your future employer is concerned about a tech skills gap. Better polish those writing and speaking skills.

Everyone knows there's a tech "skills gap" for software developers and others. But here's what you don't know:...

According to a recent survey from PayScale, the most important skills missing in new tech graduates weren't programming languages, but instead the abilities to write, speak in public and problem solve.

If you're surprised -- and maybe even shocked -- you're not alone. Lydia Frank, senior director of editorial and marketing at PayScale, said the company went in to the survey with the belief that they'd hear the usual "colleges aren't prepping grads with enough tech skills" complaint. Instead, employers are most troubled, she said, about the lack of soft skills like communication. "The takeaway from this survey is that you really do need a well-rounded liberal arts education, even if you're going to be a software developer," she said. "You need to be able to write a good email and make a good presentation in front of other people."

PayScale surveyed over 14,000 recent graduates and nearly 64,000 employers to gather work preparedness and tech skills gap information, Frank said. A full 60% of employers said recent grads are missing problem-solving skills, while 44% want better writers and 39% think public speaking skills are absent. They don't stop there -- 44% of employers also said new grads lack ownership and leadership skills, while 16% cited a lack of curiosity as a problem.

Of course, the grads have a somewhat different view of themselves. A hearty 87% of new graduates surveyed believe that they're well-prepared (by graduation or no more than three months later) for the workforce -- there's no serious tech skills gap in their minds. But only 50% of their employers agreed with that statement.

And when it comes to tech skills, the PayScale survey showed the more cutting edge and expert your knowledge, the more likely you'd get a raise compared to a colleague in a similar position without that skill. Know Scala and expect your salary to jump by 22.2%. Other hot skills include Go (a 20% pay increase), Hadoop (12.5%), iOS SDK (11.4%), big data analytics (10.7%), cloud (10.4%), Android SDK (9.3%), Selenium test tool (6.7%) and Groovy (6.2%).

The fact that all these tech skills are relatively new points to another trend Frank noted in the survey: the need for employees to continually push themselves to learn new things. "The big takeaway is that what you learn for your job doesn't end when you graduate," she said. "You have to continue to grow your skill set if you want to advance."

And if you've ever wondered what not to put on a resume, the PayScale survey has the answers. In the technology area, you never want to put "data entry," "system repair," or "Dreamweaver" on your resume if you really want the job. Those skills -- considered common "foundational" skills that everyone should have -- are the kiss of death, the survey showed.

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