Every day Antônio Loureiro’s job must seem like a major challenge, when you consider how heated the Brazilian labor market is these days. To discuss the shortage of qualified IT professionals in Brazil, we interviewed Loureiro, president and founder of Conquest One, a human resources agency that serves IT companies. The company also has among its clients firms from different areas, from the insurance field, like Unibanco AIG, to the biggest airline in the country, TAM.
Loureiro noted that the shortage of skilled people in Brazil is not a new phenomenon, and emphasized that big IT players have to invest in their own workers.
Nearshore Americas: Conquest One provides HR search and placement mostly for outsourcing and IT companies in Brazil. How do you see the lack of skilled professionals in that area today?
Antônio Loureiro: I do not believe that this is a recent phenomenon. The lack of qualified IT professionals started 12 years ago or so. Since the beginning of the expansion of personal computers from business to general consumers, the demand for tech professionals as a whole has grown a lot. Initially, undergraduate students would get out of college, start working in a big company through an internship or trainee program, and from that point on their specific skills were developed. With the popularization of the Internet, companies started to invest less and less in the development of their work force.
There has been an increase in students taking IT courses, although not necessarily at the university level, but the demand for skilled people in areas like systems solutions has grown absurdly and at a much faster pace. To be competitive, companies had to hire people who were already prepared — they had no time anymore to qualify them.
At the same time, as outsourcing increased, especially in IT data processing, many companies stopped investing in their own IT areas. In a certain way, that has been occurring throughout the whole world.
In the past, with two or three professionals you were able to develop a simple system. Today, to do the same, you need around nine or ten people.
NSAM: That means we are facing a double impact: a shortage that affects domestic and international companies?
AL: Professionals specializing in Java or SAP, for example, are in short supply everywhere. But here in Brazil, besides lacking people with those skills, we have a considerable deficit of information designers, programmers, IT architects, and analysts. And to add to all that, the world has become a lot more complex. In the past, with two or three professionals you were able to develop a simple system. Today, to do the same, you need around nine or ten people. All that contributes to the high demand for IT professionals — especially for the development and support of web applications.
Then, all of that is magnified by the strong economic growth Brazil is experiencing today. In terms of professional qualification, you still see local companies preparing their employees in basic environments, like programming and systems analysis; and also in the mostly operational parts, like production control, which are areas that require inside knowledge of a company. But the interactions between the income money and the payment duties and the CRM systems, for example, that kind of knowledge is hard to learn in the academic world. The employers that invest well in qualifying their own professionals are the big IT companies, like IBM and Stefanini.
SB: What type of professionals are most in demand?
AL: Web analysts and programmers, and also those who understand web architecture and development – Java and .NET architects; consultants for Microsoft BI, Sharepoint and Websphere, and also Peoplesoft and People Tools. There is also a need for those professionals who deal with applications already developed, those who work with the migration to SAP or to RP from Oracle, for example. The sectors that have the biggest number of professionals in the market are those related to networking and telecommunications, that have already experienced a boom in the past.
But today, for all the companies in IT services, there is a basic requirement that is growing, and that is the ability to speak English. This is an area in which the State could invest massively. Today there is an effort to integrate the operations between the countries where companies deliver services, and speaking English is mandatory for that.
NSAM: So what would you have to say to the IT outsourcing companies that are arriving in the country today? What should they expect regarding the local workforce?
AL: From the perspective of the outsourcing services provider, he has to work on the qualifications of his own employees. He has to look for partnership with universities, which some of them already do, and has to develop some well-structured training programs. I have visited the training camp of Infosys in India and was surprised by their professionalism, the whole structure they built up with the purpose of qualifying people. Young people must feel involved to be part of such big companies, because even though their salaries might be a little bit lower, they have to take into account the investments that are being made [in them].
We created inside Conquest One, for example, a project called Ver o Mundo (See the World, in a simple translation), and one of the goals is to qualify young professionals from the suburbs of the big Brazilian cities. We started the process in 2007. Now, 80 of these young people are starting to work in different companies as apprentices. Every year we look for 80 new kids to start investing in them.
NSAM: That is an interesting initiative, but it’s done on a very small scale. What could be done in a bigger way to minimize the HR deficit?
AL: Well, investments made by the government to qualify people would always be welcome. I see initiatives coming from the Ministry of Science and Technology, and you can see that both the government and business decision-makers have the same worry about the lack of IT professionals. But all of them have, in the end, their own projects. They end up being customized projects, but that are not done on a sufficient scale to meet the demand that we see today. If you had public investments to make such programs widespread all over the country, then we would be able to see some change.
NSAM: How does Conquest One help IT companies find good professionals?
AL: Conquest One as an HR company has focused on IT since 1997. Our main activity is seeking professionals and acting as a head hunter for spots that go from the basic jobs to management positions. We were created as a spin-off of Alcoa (one of the world’s leading aluminum producers), and today we follow international standards when we offer our services to our clients, especially in making the companies recognize the importance of the IT area for its business and how important it is to have respect for the IT professional in that context.
We have many multinational companies that operate in Brazil, and there are cases where we end up extending our services to the main offices of those companies as well. In the past four or five years, the domestic market has grown incredibly. Today the demand is much higher from domestic companies than from foreign ones. Actually, we see many of those domestic companies expanding to international markets.
This story first appeared in our sister publication: Sourcing Brazil