My View: How NEXTGen IT helps build Arizona’s tech workforce
Given the opportunity to succeed, most people will rise to the occasion.
If that seems to be the view of an optimist, consider me guilty as charged. And I’m not alone.
About 10 years ago, the Arizona Technology Council worked with Tempe-based Seidman Research Institute to conduct a comprehensive tech workforce study. Etched in my brain was the finding that information technology talent was especially needed.
Since then, partnerships have been created to make a difference in the workforce. A prime example is NEXTGen IT, a collaboration of Arizona State University/AZNext, the U.S. Department of Labor, Tekletics and Impact Technology focused on creating and retaining IT jobs here and the rest of the nation, U.S.-based IT delivery at offshore pricing, and training that targets reskilling, upskilling, and diversity, equity and inclusion.
The effort came about as part of a Labor Department grant for ASU to lead a workforce development partnership that helped train workers for high-paying, high-demand jobs. Working on the grant with ASU were several external partners, including the Council, Arizona Commerce Authority, Arizona@Work, Infosys and Pipeline AZ. This led to the establishment of the ASU-based Arizona Workforce Training Accelerator Partnership for Next Generation Jobs, or AZNext for short.
AZNext: ‘An opportunity to change their lives’
NEXTGen IT already has become the first alternative to offshore software delivery using only local American talent at low offshore price points that come about with grant support.
So, how does NEXTGen IT work?
Representatives meet with potential customers to discuss IT needs, tech stacks and scope. A proposal is then presented with the number of resources needed in addition to estimated costs and timelines.
Given the green light, a team is trained by ASU faculty on the technology specific to the project. Senior IT subject matter experts initiate the project with the customer to direct, oversee and track the progress, making sure the deliverables meet high standards.
When the project is completed, the customer has the option to hire any of the team members with no placement fees or move them on to a new project.
As you can tell, the program is more than giving a customer what it needs at a lower price. It’s also about the people who have learned new skills. As AZNext program manager Rob Buelow says: “Most of our participants really see our program as an opportunity to change their lives.” One recent estimate is that 1,300 have gone through the program.
Add to that, “One of the primary tenets of AZNext is we target underrepresented communities—women, minorities, veterans—all in keeping with ASU’s charter of improving the conditions of the communities that we live in,” Buelow says.
I know you’re going to be pleased and surprised by the options that are available for your company and the versatility of this particular solution for developing NEXTGen IT talent. After all, everyone on both sides of this equation will want to succeed, given the chance.
Steven Zylstra is president and CEO of the Arizona Technology Council.