Inspiring Success

A blog from Creating IT Futures

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September 20, 2016

Building Your Workforce Through Talent Development

ChannelCon 2016During the CompTIA ChannelCon 2016 conference, Charles Eaton, CEO of the Creating IT Futures Foundation, led a panel of executives from innovating companies developing new IT internship and apprenticeship programs. There’s no one way to recruit the best people, and if companies want to compete, they need to expand their hiring strategies. Companies can develop their talent from the bottom level up through apprenticeships and internships.

Creating IT Futures worked with Techtonic, a software development company based in Boulder, CO, to develop DevPrep, a pre-apprenticeship program for coders this past summer. Heather Terenzio, co-founder, CEO and president of Techtonic, discussed how they found the right people for the program: “During the interview process, we want to see how much they want to change their lives – how excited they are to get on this track. Within IT, you can be anything you want to be.”

The four-week DevPrep program builds the skills that people need before they can launch into a full-fledge coding apprenticeship. “We’re a for-profit company with a social mission,” added Terenzio. “Having a social enterprise as part of our company makes us more attractive to clients, while at the same time allowing us to give back to our community.”

Rafael Alvarez, founder and CEO, Genesys Works based in Houston, TX, runs a year-long internship program for high school seniors. During the summer, the soon-to-be seniors get training and then they work during the school year for a local company. The interns have demonstrated such strong skills, that Genesys Works has a 90 percent renewal rate with its employment partners.

In demonstrating how internships can change kids’ lives, Alvarez told a story of twin brothers in Houston, in which one did an internship with Genesys Works and the other decided no. The brother that went through the program interned for the United Aerospace Alliance, getting the opportunity to work with NASA. He later got a full scholarship to college and is now making $125k a year in his tech career. The twin that did not do the internship can’t even get a minimum wage job now.

“With our program, they can get a job and contribute to society, but they have to show up,” said Alvarez. “There’s no limit to an IT career. You want to live with a good income; IT provides that.”

Ann Kisting, executive director, Chicagoland Chamber Foundation based in IL, worked with Creating IT Futures and Chicago Public Schools as a partner for its Early College STEM Schools summer internships for high school juniors and seniors. “After our first pilot last year, I was blown away with what our students could do,” said Kisting. “The program was a leap worth taking. The Chamber is educating employers on how to work with interns.”

Atrion, an IT solutions provider based in RI, developed a system to incubate talent and leadership within the company through two-day workshops for employees and a long-term apprenticeship program.

“We look for the three A’s when hiring: ambition, attitude and aptitude,” said Paul Cronin, SVP, Atrion. “During the interview phase, we give them leadership and team exercises to perform. Then during the apprenticeship, we put our best engineer in charge of the apprentices. The students have 90 days in class and then six months of working four days in class and one day in the field. Now we’re up to two classes of 20 students each per year.”

Cronin asks prospective students, “What world changes will happen in 40 years? I ask them if they want to be part of those changes. If so, then they need to be in tech.”

Eaton wrapped up the session for attendees, commenting, “The best learning opportunities are paid. Students are providing a service of value. If you’re open to changing your culture, you can get a wealth of new talent.”

For those that missed ChannelCon in August, you can join the ChannelCon Online Re-Broadcast, September 28-29, where the session on building your workforce through talent development will be featured. Register for the rebroadcast.