Indian IT firms training US students to ensure access to talent


Pune: Indian IT services companies such as Tata Consultancy Services Ltd., Ltd., and Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp. are now investing in training school and college students in the United States even as they step up local hiring in key markets such as North America.

According to the companies, these initiatives are part of pre-hiring programmes to make sure they have a ready pipeline of skilled talent. This, at a time when it has become harder for Indian IT firms to get the number of H-1B work visas they need.

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TCS, which is among the biggest IT employers in the US, has trained more than 30,000 K-12 students since 2009 and worked with another 1.1 million students on computational thinking. The firm has hired 21,500 Americans, including 2,500 graduates, in the last few years.

Cognizant has launched an apprenticeship programme with a community college in North Carolina to help those with non-tech backgrounds kickstart technology careers.

“Local hiring in key markets is an integral element of Cognizant’s talent strategy, and we have been actively pursuing workforce development initiatives to build local talent for several years,” said Felix Weitzman, senior vice president (human resources) at Cognizant. “We actively work with our network of training partners, coding schools, academic institutions and non-profit organisations to jointly design and launch training programmes aimed at creating ‘job-ready candidates’, mostly from under-represented backgrounds.”

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Visa rejection rates for Indian IT services companies have been significantly higher than those for American technology firms in the last four years. At the same time, with more clients switching from legacy IT work to digital transformation projects, companies need to have more people on ground, closer to clients to help implement these projects.

With fewer Americans opting to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), companies have also been struggling to access people with the right skills in the US.

“We have made long term, sustained investments to support the American education system and work with numerous federal, state government organisations and the NGOs to prepare students with digital skills for 21st century careers,” said Janardhan Santhanam, global head for talent development at

.

The company also supports cross-sector programmes like Million Women Mentors and Npower, which have resulted in over three million women, minorities and underserved K-12 and college students entering diverse STEM career paths.

A big part of this push has been driven by customer requirements.

“In order to enhance customer experience and better delivery of services across geographies, we at Tech Mahindra have been focusing on localisation of our effort. In line with the same, we have been hiring locally, opening new centres in the US and have been reskilling and upskilling a lot more professionals there,” said Harshvendra Soin, global chief people officer and head of marketing at Tech Mahindra.

The company is collaborating with universities and community colleges as well as talent development firms to train candidates in the technology stack needed by customers in the US.

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Cognizant recently launched a career accelerator programme where it hires non-technology majors and upskills them in the most in-demand technologies. The first batch consisted entirely of women and/or from an underrepresented minority, and Weitzman said the company intends to continue with this focus going forward as well.

Even at mid-sized IT firms, such as Coforge, there is a realisation that they need to rethink their talent acquisition strategy. The company is working with the local universities in Boise, Idaho, where it has its centre to train students in the skills it needs, said CEO Sudhir Singh.



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