Roger Jankowski| Crain’s Custom Media

With IT job opportunities burgeoning in Detroit and surrounding suburbs, attracting, and maintaining, top talent to the region is of paramount importance.

What initiatives are taking place to ensure a steady pipeline of highly skilled tech workers is available to Detroit’s businesses and firms? What’s being done to stop the “brain drain” in tech talent from the city? And how engaged are local employers in training the next generation of IT professionals?

To answer those questions, Roger Jankowski of Crain’s Custom Media sat down with Ryan Hoyle, vice president of talent acquisition and business development at GalaxE.Solutions, who is also one of the leaders on the core strategy team at ExperienceIT.

What role is ExperienceIT playing in the quest to first develop, and then maintain, the next generation of IT talent in the city?

Hoyle: Experience IT is really the evolution of a collaboration begun in 2012 between leading information technology organizations and workforce agencies known as “IT in the D.” After a successful two-year run with that program, we took a step back to review lessons learned and then to refocus our curriculum to provide even greater value to our students. In June of this year, we launched our new initiative as ExperienceIT with a commitment to facilitating the growth and resilience of the IT workforce in the region.

Who is involved in the initiative?

Hoyle: Our initial founding partners were Quicken Loans, GalaxE.Solutions, Title Source, Fathead, Marketing Associates and the Workforce Intelligence Network (WIN). With our reemergence as ExperienceIT, we now have, in addition to the founding partners, five new partners: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, DTE Energy, Grand Circus, Detroit Employment Solutions Corp. and Tanner Friedman Strategic Communications.

How has ExperienceIT evolved? What are you doing differently?

Hoyle: It’s really a new program. ExperienceIT will continue to drive the vision of turning Detroit and Southeast Michigan into a nationally recognized IT hub through the attraction and development of world-class talent. But now there is increased focus on collaboration and partnership with the region’s top employers, academic institutions and other supporting agencies. We’re looking closely at recruitment and training strategies that will enable graduates to satisfy immediate hiring needs in the area.

How does that shift in focus affect the students?

Hoyle: The program has been redesigned in such a way as to give aspiring professionals an inside track to careers in IT and software development. It accomplishes that by training them in a classroom setting with real world IT projects. It’s an eight-week program with students “working” five days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The program also provides mentorship and on-the-job training. So we’re really more of a formal jobs-training program now. Successful graduates are actually guaranteed employment of some type with our corporate sponsors.

What was the selection process for the students?

Hoyle: The student profile was created by program corporate partners; then DESC and Grand Circus interviewed members of each firm’s IT department to refine those requirements. They honed in on qualities like IT knowledge, experience, classwork, aptitude, etc.

From there, we conducted a formal recruiting process that included collaboration with local colleges and outreach to each partner company’s network. That’s how we arrived at over 200 applicants.

Those applicants went through formal technical and behavioral assessment with DESC, and the top 45 students were selected for admission. Our current student roster is 43.

Are these applicants just out of school, displaced worker, workers that already have some experience?

Hoyle: The class is an extremely diverse group. We have a wide mix of ages, races, genders and experience levels — all with varying degrees of IT experience and/or aptitude. Some are currently pursuing degrees, with some working, some not. Others have a degree, working and not. Some have IT experience, and others are self-taught and have a high IT aptitude.

Any outcomes to report?

Our first session is wrapping up now. In the next week or so, all the candidates will be meeting with all the companies in a general “speed interview” type session. The following week, each candidate will have a formal interview with every company involved. And from there, job offers will be tendered to all the students. Then we begin a new session with recruiting starting all over again in the fall.

Roger Jankowski is the President and Chief Creative Officer of JankowskiCo, a highly regarded, marketing and advertising agency which, for 17 successful years, has operated on the premise that big problems are best solved by big ideas from a small group of big thinkers.  In addition to his marketing communications work, Jankowski is also a well known and prolific business writer who regularly contributes astute content and news stories on a variety of subjects – from art to education, energy to employment, science, technology and healthcare matters.



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