Thinking Outside of the (Empty) Box

ThinkstockPhotos-466428522Fact: Not enough people are available to fill current IT staffing needs.

Fact: The government is issuing fewer visas for consultants from overseas who would normally fill staffing shortages.

Fact: Even with H-1B Visa holders who are available, many corporations and staffing firms can’t take the risk or shoulder the costs associated with offshore talent.

These facts clearly illustrate the dire situation around meeting IT staffing needs. Yet sometimes the situations that pose the most impossible circumstances offer an opportunity for the most creative solutions.

At Strategic Staffing Solutions (S3), we decided to think outside the (empty) box to address the IT staffing gap.

We started by focusing on retired military personnel who are coming back into civilian life, along with military spouses and offspring. We knew their experience with the military means they think on their feet, are problem-solvers, and build relationships quickly – and their ethics are second to none. While we focused on veterans, we also targeted people who were going through a career change or young people looking for a new career.

Veterans are an untapped market; they are highly trainable, having learned specialized skills during their service. Many customers are interested in hiring vets. Another boon, we have a large pool to choose from: there are more than 20 million U.S. veterans in the country today.

But, in thinking this through, S3 knew it would be a challenge because many veterans and others looking for a career change do not have IT skills. We needed to invest in training vets, military spouses/offspring, and others to build their tech skills. Once trained, we knew we could quickly deploy them. So, that’s what we’ve done.

Customers have driven the skills we’re training for. Some higher-demand areas include .net, Java, and QA. Vets and other trainees come in a blank slate and come out ready to perform. S3 provides a mentor to each trainee for the first 18 months to support him/her through the transition.

When we launched our training initiative, and began investing in this training pool to build their tech skill sets, we had a feeling the results wouldn’t disappoint us.

They haven’t.

Placements are working out, and this group is surpassing expectations every day.

The best testimony always comes from the toughest customers. Skeptical of the program at first, one of S3’s toughest customers has since been completely wowed. He recently told me: “I’m going on my third trainee. These folks have shown more promise than recent hires with far greater experience.”

Our program proves that if you get the right people, they’re sponges when it comes to learning. This holds especially true for veterans.

In a Monster Worldwide survey in 2014, employers said the top five skills that veterans bring to civilian jobs include self-discipline, teamwork, attention to detail, respect and leadership, in that order. Who wouldn’t want someone who brings those assets to the table on his or her team?

Along with training and hiring vets as consultants, we’ve also had great success with military retirees and spouses joining our overhead staff. In fact, approximately 40 percent of our employees – including both our CEO and chairman of the board – claim military veteran and/or military spouse status or a close affiliation with the military community, such as a parent,sibling or other close family member serving in the military. Further, our 25-member all-veterans sourcing team has left a footprint countrywide, having helped our national recruiting team place more than 1,400 hires to date.

Creative solutions like these can be effective in replacing the void of off-shore talent. We decided to look outside of the empty box, and found a way to fill it back up.

Mark Skidmore

Mark Skidmore
Mark Skidmore is vice president of Strategic Staffing Solutions.

Mark Skidmore
Mark Skidmore is vice president of Strategic Staffing Solutions.

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