Programmers sign up for Pygmalion treatment

December 21, 2001

Information technology students at Munich's Technical University are being offered a course in manners and social conduct.

Participants are nerds - young talented people whose social skills are often light years behind their computer knowledge. Arndt Bode, who organises the course, which is called "Fit for the career", said the response has been immense.

Students learn the basic skills of greeting, shaking hands and table manners. Young men also learn tips on how to dress correctly, including the proper way to wear a tie. They also get advice on small talk, getting to know people and body language.

The university decided to start the course after the German business advice agency Mummert + Partner delivered a "shattering verdict" on the abilities of some graduates. The agency's research found that only two out of 100 graduates from information technology and similar subjects fulfilled the wishes of employers.

The report also shows that computer specialists are lacking in skills when it comes to teamwork. It concludes that many IT graduates are "technically competent, but socially incompetent".

Austria is also addressing the problem. At Vienna's Technical University, lectures on teamwork and organisation skills are in demand.

"A bit of sociology does no harm," said Philipp Tomisch, an IT assistant at the university who runs a society for computer students. "As a technician you totally forget manners. And you even get strange looks if you turn up in a clean shirt."

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