A Colorado Software Company Finds a Profitable Way to Generate New Talent
“Any time you hire someone it’s a risk,” Terenzio said. “If we were going to take a risk it would be on someone no one took a risk on before.”
Developers at Techtonic, a software company, started teaching the new hire code using a basic shadowing approach. Seeing immediate benefits, Terenzio checked in with Workforce Boulder County, a local government organization that recommended a new pool of prospects, focusing on those who are unemployed or underemployed and driven to contribute to the software industry, with a strong dedication to youth and veterans. Since that first apprentice, the program has trained 12 junior developers, eight of whom are currently employed full-time at the company.
The risk is paying off with dividends. Terenzio says the program has already become profitable. The company receives some help with expenses for the first two months from the local government but for the most part the program is another line item in the budget. Even with the startup cost of the program and the stipend ($15/hour) that new apprentices are paid, the benefits outweigh the costs because those hires start contributing from day one. During their training period, Terenzio estimates they bring in roughly five billing hours per week in their first couple months. As they increase their skills, they increase the number of clients. And as they move up the corporate ladder, the junior developers train the incoming “class.”
“In our industry the only way to get new employees is to steal them from other places and that’s not conducive to any business,” Terenzio said. “We needed a way to generate talent where there was none before and increase the talent pool.”
Adding new skilled workers is especially important for the tech industry, where supply and demand is always an issue. According to the Department of Labor, the rate of employment growth for software developers is projected at 17% between 2014 and 2024, faster than the average for all industries.
Techtonic’s solution to those numbers is Techtonic Academy, a nationally recognized apprenticeship program–the only one in Colorado–that teaches developers enough foundational skills that they can contribute to any number of tech companies. It’s a viable solution to closing the skills cap and tapping into talent who may not otherwise have inroads to these kinds of companies. Currently, a four-year program at a public college (with room and board) starts at around $20,000, according to the College Board. Software “boot camps” can cost anywhere between $20,000 and $30,000.
“What we’ve done is create a program to help people who need a leg up to get into the technology industry,” Terenzio said. “People on our staff were flipping pizza a year ago and now they’re making $60K. We’re becoming a catalyst to help people get into this career path.”
Techtonic Academy is a new project—it only launched at the beginning of 2016. But Terenzio envisions other companies buying a membership to the Academy that would heed even more benefits: Techtonic would have another form of profits in exchange for those companies having priority access to trained and eager hires.
While the membership aspect is still a work in progress, a number of companies have already recruited graduates of the Academy, including Healthgrades, a national online database connecting doctors and patients, and Community Systems, a software development company.
“A bachelor’s degree in computer science is a good idea, but a degree alone does not a coder make,” says Terenzio. “Employers look at track records—someone from a great school with no outside coding projects or interesting technical accomplishments is seen as a project that will need ramp up over time. Compare this with someone who is a rock star coder with no degree but a huge list of achievements—that’s an appealing and easy hire."
The GradsofLifeVoice Forbes team provides thought leadership, research and expert commentary on innovative talent pipelines and related issues such as the skills gap, income inequality, workforce diversity, and the business case for employment pathways. We seek to change employers’ perceptions of young adults with atypical resumes from social liabilities to economic assets. This post was originally featured here.
Hiring & Retention Practices, Management & Leadership, Technology,
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