The severe drought of IT talent the Nearshore is experiencing means that companies are casting their nets ever wider as they search out professional profiles. Social enterprises, like Mexico City’s Hola Code, are producing talent that is equipped to provide the Nearshore with the skills it needs.
Founded in 2017, Hola Code has so far graduated over 130 developers with a job insertion rate of 74%. The enterprise has a network of 150 major tech companies, including Mexico’s first unicorn, Kavak, and Argentinian IT services giant Globant, that regularly approach its team for talent.
Though the enterprise wants to dramatically increase its number of graduates, there is one problem, well-known to socially-minded organizations, holding it back: money.
“We receive calls every day from major tech companies that request hundreds of developers,” Aída Chávez, Hola Code Co-CEO told Nearshore Americas. “I have to tell them that I would love to graduate another 500 developers, but we don’t have the resources to do that yet.”
Hola Code trains returnees, deportees and refugees to become developers. As most students have lived in the US for a number of years, they have advanced English-language abilities and an understanding of US culture that is highly prized by Nearshore companies. Prospective students do not need to have a tech background to join, though Hola Code seeks out students who demonstrate strong logical thinking skills, math abilities and sound soft skills.
The enterprise offers five-month bootcamps for budding professionals. Students are required to attend from 9am to 7pm each day of the week, as well as completing additional projects. The courses are free of charge to enrol on and complete, and students pay back the cost of the course in installments once they’re in full-time employment. Effectively, each successful student helps another follow in their path.
“I would love to graduate another 500 developers, but we don’t have the resources to do that yet” — Aída Chavez, Hola Code
But at a cost of 127,000 pesos (around US$6,150), and with up to 30 students in each class, funding is a constant requirement.
“Growth is never easy as a social enterprise, and balancing the business model is difficult. We are always looking for more investors and investment to graduate more people,” said Chávez.
A lack of specialized talent is enough of a problem in itself. Korn Ferry, an LA-based management consultancy firm, predicts a massive shortage of 85 million tech workers by 2030. The Nearshore’s need for advanced English skills makes the problem particularly acute.
The production of talent from non-traditional backgrounds is an issue that Globant, one of the region’s major software companies, has been grappling with for years, both by reaching out to social enterprises and through its own internal initiatives.
“We’ve been creating tech talent from our very beginning. A lot of the landscape that now exists in the tech world was not here 18 years ago,” said Bernardo Manzella, Global Recruiting Director at Globant.
In 2020, the company gave out 1,500 scholarships to professionals with potential, and expects to give out another 1,000 scholarships by the end of this year. The company is focused on training tech professionals from a diverse range of backgrounds, through courses like Back in the Game – a training program for older professionals who may or may not have tech experience – and Get in the Game, focused on developing female talent.
Manzella explains that bootcamps alone are not always enough to prepare new tech workers for their first fully-fledged project. Often, a ‘bridge’ is built by Globant – usually in the form of an additional three-month course – that prepares fresh recruits for work life. But the additional investment that the company needs to make offers its own return in the current high-demand market.
“There’s a demand that is not stopping. It’s one of the greatest opportunities we have. The pandemic made the drive towards digitalization even stronger,” Manzella said.
“Are we the funding partner for these social initiatives? I don’t think that’s the role that is needed from Globant” — Bernardo Manzella
Alongside social enterprises like Hola Coda, Globant also works with Laboratoria, which offers bootcamps to prepare women for careers in tech, and Chicas Programadoras, an online program for young women to learn more about coding. Providing opportunities for all, and in doing so helping to soften the issues of the tech talent gap, is a goal that must be shared, Manzella believes.
“There’s no simple way of approaching this. I think there has to be a joint effort between the public and private spheres as well as NGOs, working towards a shared vision,” he said. “We are seeing lots of initiatives to bring talent towards the IT sector, from the production of junior skill sets to the reinvention of profiles, as we are an active partner in this,” he said.
Clearly, social initiatives alone cannot solve the talent dilemma. But should more funding be offered to initiatives that train individuals from diverse backgrounds?
“Are we the funding partner for these social initiatives? I don’t think that’s the role that is needed from Globant,” said Manzella. “It should come from an inclusive approach, and should include national governments because the power of the state is so strong. If we can produce and train people then there is a major opportunity for Latin America to take.”