As the games industry is constantly changing and developing, it is often hard to know what to teach students on specialist courses to go into the games industry. It is hard to keep up with what the industry is doing, but there surely are skills that are always going to be necessary.
As most students join these courses with little or no 3D modelling experience, so it is something that undoubtedly needs to be taught. It takes time to learn new software and get used to the pipelines and processes of 3D art. Unlike traditional artistic skill, learning 3D is more of a mechanical process.
You can learn pretty much learn anything if you invest enough time and effort into it however. With a structured learning course and being surrounded by similar minds looking to learn similar thinks, the rate or learning can be accelerated. For example, sat on your own trying to learn 3D studio max can be a daunting task, but when in an environment surrounded by people working towards the same goal, you all learn it easier and collectively.
But what is necessary to succeed in the games industry? Often learning the technical side (once you have a basic grasp of 3D modelling) is a case of doing a little research and practising. Learning core traditional skills takes a lot longer, and will serve you much better in the long run. Technology is constantly changing, but with great traditional skills, they can be transferred no matter what the situation.
Game developers will look for employees who have strong 2D skills as well as technical skills. Flexibility of style is also important, as in smaller companies you may be expected to work on various different projects in various different styles.
I think that a strong foundation in traditional skills is very important but having the technical skills is necessary to take on a job in industry. It varies on your role, some jobs need more traditional skill than technical. For example if you are working on developing a game environment, you are all well and good having some well made sound assets, but if you have no understanding of composition or other traditional skills, you will find the overall environment will look disjointed and wrong.
I think one of the strongest things about my course is that we are very much based in 2D, our fundamental skills are in observation, composition, perspective, etc. But then we also get to learn a lot about 3D modelling, game engines, sculpting, etc. We treat 3D as an extension of our core 2D skills.