For IT Jobs, an Untapped Vein of Talent

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She's thankful NPower gave her a chance. Callihan says Santos has excelled, receiving an internship at PricewaterhouseCoopers. She hopes to get a full-time job there. "I see PWC as a big fish and I'm a little guppie," she says. "They gave me the opportunity to learn something and opened up a big door."

The ROI for Business

Programs like Year Up and NPower can help build an IT bench from new sources, an advantage that CIOs should make use of, Gaboriault says. "They don't normally get into our headlights the way our system currently works. They're not going to go to college and graduate and get recruited."

Schueneman herself started out skeptical. "I expected nothing. I thought that it's for a good cause: If I give a few kids some experience, fine; there's no obligation to me." What she found, however, was that the students were productive and had great attitudes. Merrill continues to support the program eight years later--not least because corporate sponsors get to influence the training, producing future employees with exactly the skills the firm is looking for. "This program gives you what is needed by a company. Companies themselves help create it."

For CIOs who still aren't convinced, Galante at JPMorgan Chase points to strong ROI. He declines to cite specific figures, but says measuring the salary paid to a given intern against variables such as the number of tech support calls he handles or the number of QA test scripts she writes and executes shows that the investment in internships and donations to the organizations are worth it. About one intern, Galante observes, "When you look at the cost of his productivity and the quality, it's a very good case."

JPMorgan Chase gave one recent Year Up intern a part-time job as a Microsoft SharePoint administrator. The intern is also working on getting certified in SharePoint, Galante says, and may be admitted into the company's college internship program. "He has really blossomed."

Not every student does, however; some with strong potential still slip away. Three ITWorks students had to drop out because of financial difficulties. One young man's mother lost her job, so he quit the program to earn money for his family. The Herreras nearly had to leave, too. "Many times we found ourselves not knowing with what money we were going to pay for the train ride the next day to go to the ITWorks class," Solenny Herrera says. "Sometimes we didn't even have money to have a decent meal."

Lila Santos held on, despite having to miss several classes when her son's asthma flared up and she had no one else to care for him. Instructors sent work home so she could stay current. "They were very understanding. They're like a second family," she says.

Some Year Up students at JPMorgan Chase weren't offered jobs when their internships ended, Galante says. Sometimes they discovered they weren't interested in financial services or the kind of technology work they were doing, he says. In other cases, the intern didn't perform to expectations. "We had given them that feedback, and when the internship came to a close, it was lessons learned for that individual before they were to pursue the next job."

None of this has soured JPMorgan Chase on the program. "It's not that different from our experience with college interns," he says. "We've had more of a positive experience than anything else."

Sustaining the Training

The Obama administration has promised to increase funding for specialized training and retraining programs of all sorts. For example, Obama's Educate to Innovate initiative aims, among other things, to get schools, universities, the government and companies to develop targeted training classes that will put the United States ahead of other countries in math and science education.

But mostly what keeps programs such as Year Up and NPower afloat is corporate donations and participation; businesses open their doors to interns and spend time in the classrooms with students. Companies are careful with philanthropic dollars. Increasingly, they want to see sustainable impact from their giving, according to the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP), a group of international CEOs dedicated to corporate giving. Among 47 CEOs surveyed recently by CECP, more than half said they are refocusing donations on causes central to business strategy. That bodes well for groups like Year Up and NPower that address a corporate need, Callihan says.

When companies don't, as Ballai puts it, "have the capacity" to donate money, CIOs still can volunteer their time to teach and mentor. "You still are needed and you can seed the future," he says.

Whether ITWorks will get funding in time to hold a spring semester is unclear. Callihan says he and his team are applying for grants and talking up ITWorks to potential corporate sponsors. He may have to suspend classes for a few months to raise money. "You don't want to have a gap like that, but it might be necessary."

Solenny Herrera, meanwhile, is now working full-time in Reed's data production operation "She is very talented and dedicated to learning," Ballai says. "I think she's going to be a great success story."

Senior Editor Kim S. Nash can be reached at

Do you Tweet? Follow me on Twitter @knash99. Follow everything from CIO Magazine @CIOMagazine.

This story, "For IT Jobs, an Untapped Vein of Talent" was originally published by CIO.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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