A record 6.6 million jobs are going unfilled in the U.S. today, due in part to a skills shortage. The national unemployment rate currently stands at 3.8%, the lowest it’s been in 20 years, and it drops even further, to 2%, for individuals with a bachelor’s degree in math or computer science.

In this environment, many businesses are paying a premium to hire and keep desirable IT talent. Others, however, are establishing more creative ways to source hard-to-find talent, by upskilling and reskilling new groups of workers to move into the IT field, whether they’re current employees or prospective job candidates.

Upskilling programs are typically aimed at non-computer-savvy individuals both within or outside the business, through training and certification programs, while  reskilling initiatives are geared toward existing employees whose future prospects will likely be affected or fully displaced by computer automation, such as financial auditors or clerical workers. 

In both cases, the curriculum includes introductory digital literacy topics, such as instructing an electrician or HVAC worker on computer-aided design (CAD), and courses on how technologies such as cloud computing and Internet of Things are increasingly changing the world. Other hot topics might include cybersecurity and project management in an increasingly Agile and DevOps world. For reskilling initiatives, the courses would get more detailed and specific.

Innovative Partnerships

To pursue these types of initiatives, some businesses are turning to public-private partnerships and close collaboration with traditional four-year universities, community colleges and certification schools. For example, we recently partnered with Maricopa Community College in Arizona to create a training program in areas like application value management and ServiceNow certification.

LaunchCode and Per Scholas are two examples of nonprofit organizations – funded by local governments, foundations and employers – that offer tuition-free technology training, career coaching and placement programs for individuals in often-overlooked communities. The Per Scholas collaborative effort works like this: Businesses identify a targeted skill set needed to fill their job openings, and then partner with Per Scholas, which provides free training to qualified applicants. The business partner interviews and hires select candidates (more than half of those that complete the program, in some cases). Those who don’t get hired re-enter the job market with highly relevant skills for another employer to take advantage of. (Disclosure: Cognizant recently partnered with Per Scholas to retrain 650 individuals through the end of this year.)

We consider this type of private-public approach to be a “do well and do good” strategy, as employers get the talent they need while also providing a public service to upskill and reskill workers.. What’s more, this is all done at the same (if not lower) cost than traditional talent acquisition efforts. On top of that, the candidates who emerge from these types of programs are often better suited for entry-level tech jobs when compared with four-year graduates, who often expect or want more senior leadership positions right after graduating.

Reskilling in Record Time

Businesses are also partnering with universities (through temp-training agencies) and bootcamps to fill the labor gap, often in a fraction of the time it normally takes to train employees. For example, technology talent development organization Revature has partnered with dozens of Fortune 500 companies (including Cognizant) and several top-tier universities to reduce hiring times by 70% and cut attrition rates by a factor of four.

Companies looking for proficient coders rather than degreed computer science majors can also turn to bootcamp courses, through which individuals can become certified within three to four months of training at most, and at a fraction of the cost of a four-year degree. To rival these speed and cost advantages, universities will need to offer new types of training courses.

With the skills gap showing no sign of narrowing in the near future, it’s clear that businesses will need to seek out more creative approaches to quickly filling their talent needs. Through partnerships that can act swiftly to provide cost-effective, targeted programs to upskill and reskill workers, and identify previously untapped segments of the potential talent pool, businesses can propel themselves – and the communities in which they live – to unprecedented success.

Eric Westphal

Eric Westphal

Eric Westphal is Cognizant’s Senior Director of Global Corporate Affairs. He holds an MBA in business administration and management from Fordham University’s... Read more