How to attract Next-Gen IT Workers

CIOs use partnerships with colleges, middle schools and private programs to attract and shape youth for IT careers.

Barbara Koster, SVP and CIO, Prudential Financial

Find a partner

Getting kids excited about working in IT is a personal passion for me, and I think that's necessary for any CIO who gets involved--you have to put a lot of effort into it outside of your professional capacity. The return comes when you open up the students' eyes to the fact that technology isn't just coding--there are so many other jobs involved in creating new applications and solutions. That's when they get excited.

You don't have to shoulder the whole burden. There are programs and people to partner with; you just have to find them. Several members of my management team were attending graduate classes at Columbia University. If they hadn't brought me the ideas of one of the professors for getting kids into the IT workforce, we never would have become partners. Columbia couldn't do it on their own; they needed companies to help. We were the first to sponsor the university's Workforce Outsource Services program, which provides high school students the opportunity to attend a 16-week certification program. It includes working part time for partner companies in New Jersey and New York (learn the details through the Connect box on the CIO Executive Council site).

The program is now a key component of our IT recruitment strategy, helping build our pipeline across the company. The interns are good at coming up with ideas for how to solve business problems with technology, but the best part is the opportunity we give young people to have a future career in IT.

Eric Hungate, CIO, Texas Association of School Boards

Influence education as a local employer

The sweet spot for CIOs to hit is the middle-school level. Get involved with your local schools' curriculum boards and help develop classes that will grab the attention and imagination of kids. By the time they're in eighth grade, they need to know that the technical field is interesting; otherwise, many of them will fall behind and won't have the skills or knowledge to decide later that they want to be in IT. I'm working with several schools now that are developing programs that will prepare students for pursing technical degrees, which could serve as models across the country.

By helping to develop technology-related curricula with practical applications, CIOs can help bridge the significant divide between the middle schools and high schools, and the colleges and universities. Too many in higher education look down on what the middle and high schools are teaching. But if CIOs were to step in as local employers and industry leaders--by setting their stamp of approval on the curriculum as one that will prepare kids to be hired out of college--that could make a huge difference.

Jesse Carrillo, VP and CIO, Hines

Prepare them for the working culture

What first made me excited to work with Genesys Works in Houston was its summer boot camp, an eight-week training program for inner-city students. While they learn the technical skills, they also learn about workplace culture and how to be a member of a corporate team, which are skills that arent easy to learn in a classroom and will serve them for life. Its an eye-opening experience for most of them.

Because they have that preparation, when I bring a student in as an intern, they immediately become part of the team. They're on project teams and interacting with users, and we try to get rid of that "intern" label as soon as possible because they are full contributors for the time they are here.

Genesys Works is now expanding into other cities, starting with Minneapolis-St. Paul, and their model is one anyone around the country can use to do more than just teach kids about technology opportunities.


This story, "How to attract Next-Gen IT Workers" was originally published by CIO Executive Council.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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