In an ideal world, an IT graduate receives enough knowledge and skills in Higher education institution to start work in their area of specialization at once. Real life, unfortunately, is often very different:
• industry HEI can provide a solid theoretical background to the detriment of practice;
• some HEI fail to include training in state-of-the-art technologies in their curricula;
• IT knowledge quickly becomes obsolete.
As a result, few graduates are ready to work right out of university without self-education.
But there are ways to make learning more effective. One was suggested by Viktor Dyachkov, General Director of ICL Group of Companies:"It is business that should provide training in engineering fields. Otherwise, business should arrange specific programs with HEI".
Experience of a systemic approach to students
Dyachkov’s proposal is based on the experience of ICL Services — a business unit within ICL Group of Companies. We systemically approached work with IT students here:
Looking for young talent >>> Fundamental training >>> Specialization in high-demand technologies >>> Hands-on experience >>> Support and encouragement to develop in their sphere.
Data and figures
ICL Services is in Top-7** in terms of IT support, distribution, and retail, and has operated internationally since 2006. The Company is in Top-5*** in terms of IT outsourcing in Russia and in Top-100**** worldwide. The Company’s headquarters and key facilities are based in Kazan. It employs 1,000+ people.
• has resources to train the young, including by having lead specialists allocate their working time;
• interested in a long-term development of the IT market;
• focused primarily on student development in its "home" region (Kazan).
None of ICL Services’ training or scholarship programs imposes any employment commitments on the student. These conditions are fundamental to student programs. Now, in more detail.
Talent search: Coding tournament and Olympiads
Every year, student and school coding Olympiads are held under the aegis of the Company.The main competition is the annual ICL Tournament held in partnership with main IT HEI in the region (Kazan Federal University, Kazan National Research Technical University).
The ICL Tournament was started in 2000 and became international in 2013. In 2016, 170 teams from 7 countries participated in the knockout, and 45 in the main program.There are two events — for schoolchildren and students.
Mainly regional teams compete in the school event, teams from the country’s leading HEI, including Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, ITMO University, and St. Petersburg State University, in the student event.
The Tournament meets 3 main objectives.
1. It supports young talents’ interest in IT and enables them to show what they are made of.This contributes to IT development nationwide.
2. It identifies the "stars".Later, the Company supports them with scholarships, helps them develop during work placement and educational programs (see below for more detail).
3. This makes the ICL brand stronger in the professional environment. Not all tournament participants come to work for the Company, but all of them get to know and remember it.
Fundamental education: Labs and Master’s Program
A good option of cooperation with HEI is to integrate practical learning of modern technologies that the IT company is in charge of with the basic curriculum.
In 2011, ICL Services opened Fujitsu Labs at KFU. This is a joint project with Fujitsu as a partner intended for fundamental education with profound training in high-demand IT specializations. Year 2-4 students major in infrastructural areas, development, and testing: they learn technologies used at ICL Services and gain hands-on experience. Diploma papers are written on the basis of real-life projects. Classes are delivered by the Company’s IT specialists.
A joint project based on the Master’s Program was created together with KNRTU. Focus is also on practice, instruction is done by ICL employees. By the time they finish the University, masters will have received extended training within their university curriculum and invaluable experience.
In 2015, 60 % laboratory graduates came to work to ICL.
Large-scale long-term projects face challenges, too:
• the return on investment is 2-4 years delayed;
• large investments (of money and time of specialists that deliver lectures) are required;
• the curriculum and the closing of vacancies should be planned years in advance;
• the course should be adjusted to the HEI curriculum.
Only a large company is likely to overcome the challenges and achieve the desired result.
Specialization: "hone" the skills in 3 weeks
ICL Services regularly holds short (30-100 hours) IT crash courses (testing, system administration, service desk etc.) to train the learners to perform well during specific projects.The Company’s employees provide instruction during courses. Training materials are based on real cases. Classes are delivered at university facilities (for courses organized together with them) or the corporate training center. Courses are triggered whenever there are junior vacancies at any ICL Services project, so courses are aimed at staff training and recruitment.
Course programs are planned to meet the needs of a specific area of activity. About 70 % of instruction time is dedicated to learning about it, the remaining time spent on IT standards (usually ITIL) and soft skills necessary for customer relations.
ICL Services delivered 3 short courses during H1 2016, including 4-week evening classes on workplace infrastructure. 59 people enrolled, 10 were successfully nominated, 86 were hired, 2 were admitted for work placement. A similar ratio of the number of applications, students, and employment offers is typical of other short courses, too.
ICL Services regularly invites students for 1-6 month work placement as junior system administrators, testers, and developers. Interns become familiar with the full cycle of work at an IT company up to project management. As a result, they turn into competent young talent with a meaningful record in their resume. In about 50 % cases, the Company offers the intern employment.
Supporting students: scholarship VS job
Young talents can be supported in two ways.
1. Scholarships. Every year, ICL awards personalized scholarships to 10 talented students of industry HEI (KFU, KNRTU, Innopolis, Kazan State Power Engineering University). Scholarship holders learn at corporate training sessions and work on their own IT projects. In 2016, 6 out of 10 scholarship holders had additional work placement at the Company.
2. Paid work placement / employment offer. Most students work during their schooling, preferably, in their field of specialization. Then the student will possess the knowledge and a strong resume, and IT business will get more experienced employees. ICL Services hires students and is tolerant in terms of their studies by allowing part-time work and adjusting work hours to the timetable and exams at the university.
Keep communications in mind
• works with HEI, participates in Career Days and Doors Open Days;
• presents promising areas, projects, and curricula to the student body;
• propagates information about its initiatives in the IT environment (on industry forums, communities);
• is open for communication in social networks.
The Company should be visible to IT students. Otherwise, even the best educational program is left without an audience.
Viktor Dyachkov, General Director of ICL Group of Companies, believes that systematic work with students brings business good results: "We’ve gathered more than 100 young talents around which entire groups of engineers are centered". Your company might as well take advantage of ICL Services experience.
** According to Kommersant Money and CNews Analytics
*** According to Tadviser and Pierre Audoin Consultants
**** According to IAOP