If you google “boot camp”, you get IBM.
The reason is that IBM used to be the leader for bringing in smart young people and giving them the tools they needed to be successful in their careers. They sent all new employees to boot camp, and it was a place to learn about the culture, the values and the expectations of your new professional working environment. Boot camp was one of the foundations that enabled a cohesive and high performing team, and it was the gold standard in the tech industry for onboarding entry-level staff.
The term boot camp still brings to mind an intense period of indoctrination toward a specific skill or outcome, but the term has lost its connection to tech sector investments in early career team members. Instead, our industry leads in the use of contingent labor forces to get exactly the skill we need for just the time required. We leverage the ability to move that talent in and out on a commodity basis to deliver much of the high-skill work. Many of us also personally prefer term task assignments for our own careers – get in, get out, cherry pick the good work and leave the drudgery to the core staff. As leaders in the industry, we owe our teams more than just the drudgery.
Our industry faces three fundamental issues:
- Skill shortage – Moving into the next decade, two-thirds of technology leaders anticipate an extreme skills shortage, yet projections suggest that 30 per cent of our human resources will continue to be contingent labour. Corporate directors see key talent deficits as a significant risk. Research suggests that there are exponentially more STEM jobs than candidates in North America. According to the UK Commission for Employment & Skills (UKCES), STEM employees are less likely than counterparts in other roles to receive ongoing training.
- The speed of change – For a purely technical career path, as new skills crop up older skills become less valuable. Extrapolating that, every year that aspiring technologists are out of school they are potentially worth less in the market. Unless our youngest employment group are getting boot camp and proactive technical skills development as part of their early career orientation, their career growth will be stunted, and STEM jobs will be even more difficult to fill.
- The digitization of technology training – The proliferation of online training subscriptions, delivering thousands of hours of low touch technical development, may be exacerbating the problem. Instead of spending a couple thousand dollars to send someone for real training that will include hands-on practice, we spend our training dollars on a uni-directional barrage of training on every topic under the sun. That may be good to help a skilled technical practitioner take their skill on a specific tool to the next level, but it does not serve the general population.
The onus is on us to commit our organizations to a high-touch approach that develops both the technical and softer management skills. Leaders need to set an example including going out of our way to facilitate personalized development programs, both to maintain and build on technical skills and to enable less tangible experience. Our entry level employees have invested a great deal to get to our door – we owe it to them to make that investment worthwhile.
According to The National Endowment for Education, a baby boomer needed to work 630 hours at minimum wage to pay for their undergraduate education. A millennial-aged employee needs to work 4,459 hours to cover the same undergraduate degree cost. And for upcoming Gen Z’ers the situation will be even worse. The next generation of technology leaders, the young people under 30, need our commitment to their success.