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Embracing limitless learning

The growth of any business relies on the development of its own people that consists it. That is no wonder that, in an industry such as outsourcing and IT that learns together with its shareholders how to adjust to the fast pacing trends of nowadays, the development of people is a key driver for companies.

2017-11-29 11:36:17

The employees are invited to take part of a mutual process of growth and they are engaged in multiple and various training programs. Outsourcing Today sketched several of a multitude of such projects and learned from high profile managers and companies how important is the continuous learning and educational programs for growing and nurturing success.

According to Olivier Hecq, Head of SSC IT. Societe Generale EBS, a company with 1200 employees in Romania, Romania has a very strong point in its business case: the overall quality of its educated population. But Romania also has a weak point: the "quantity" of those resources. "So if we want to project the opportunities for investments in the long run and the associated Return on Investment that one can expect, we cannot do it without considering this last factor. In other words, if the outlook shows that the quantity will match the demand, without altering the quality, there are huge opportunities. If not, the question asked is very relevant and the answer not that clear," Olivier Hecq states. The manager says that the current scarcity of educated resources is generating inflation on salaries, much higher than the overall economic inflation in the country. So, while employees are enjoying exceptional economic circumstances, employers start projecting the quality/price ratio of their services in the next 3, 5 or more years. And the current rosy picture could turn to red for some of them if same trend carries on.

The trend we may see emerging is a split in the market

The SSC IT manager states that one the one hand, the "pure players" of outsourcing which are primarily margin driven may see their margins eroding in order to remain price competitive. "In that case, they will need to fight for quality and higher value in order to sustain a relevant quality/price ratio and afford higher service prices. But Is that a favorable environment for investors? On the other hand there are the captive organizations, also running for cost/quality/continuous improvement, but more driven by labor cost arbitrage than by pure margin. They may be able to resist longer to the cost pressure, which is not necessarily a guaranty for higher long term investments," Olivier Hecq told The Outsourcing –Today.

The dialogue of stakeholders

"I see two domains in which there is a need for improved communications and reciprocal understanding," Olivier Hecq says, and explains: "The first one is education and it is related to the first question. It does not look like the governmental body has realized the magnitude of the problem and the risk for their economy. There does not seem to be a sufficient push towards adding more students into the most promising university tracks and the private sector can contribute to the effort, but cannot close the gap. So we need to better articulate the problem and its consequences with the state bodies, so we jointly engage into stronger and quicker relevant solutions. For example they can develop trainings for staff reconversion in order to broaden perspective and offer a wider pool of candidates.". According to the manager, the second domain is tax related. It is a universal statement that business likes clarity, stability, and visibility. This goes along with your fist question about "long term investments". Now is a good time to reopen the discussions and provide a business friendly visibility.

Olivier Hecq, Head of SSC IT. Societe Generale EBS, a company with 1200 employees in Romania: "The current scarcity of educated resources is generating inflation on salaries, much higher than the overall economic inflation in the country."

As mentioned previously by Olivier Hecq, there are elements of quality and volume that the private sector needs to address with the academic institutions: The quality can be addressed through education content provisioning. By doing that, companies ensure the relevance of content students learn and ensure there is a better match between knowledge supply and demand. ABSL is well engaged into a number of initiatives (see below). "There is probably also a need to work closer. Too many students leave schools or universities without a real experience in the industry. Also, there is too little education/industry collaboration on real life project so students could profit from real life experience and companies could benefit from fresh, motivated, and energetic brains," the SSC IT manager adds.

The volume side of the equation is a bit more complex for companies to solve as we don't completely have the hands on the wheel. The volume will depend on many factors:
• Our ability (companies and educational system) to attract more high school graduates in to the most demanded tracks (IT, Finance, legal, etc.). This should be manageable as it does not require huge investment and we have the selling arguments at hand.
• The ability for education institutions to absorb that potential increase. Here we seem to be having the greatest difficulties: the IT track for instance is short of instructors and short of equipment.

"Therefore government, universities, and schools need to create the proper environment to create more "teaching vocations". One of which being to make sure their salaries are more or less aligned with what they could earn as an IT professional in the industry. On the equipment side, this is probably where the industry can collaborate more easily. Between the software factories, the hardware vendors and the services industry, there is huge potential to equip the students appropriately. For instance, SG EBS recently gave 40 PC's to the University of Bucharest, enough to equip two labs," Olivier Hecq details.

Addressing the regional competition

According to Olivier Hecq, "he benchmarking firms are better placed than me to make such a large comparison. What we see is that the two main competitors in Eastern Europe are Poland and Romania. Poland has the market size and the anteriority in the outsourcing market as an advantage. Romania has its more recent entry into the market supported by up to date excellent IT infrastructure, language skills and for some times, cost advantage. But the demand is such these days that there is room for two major players in the region. At the other end of the continent, Portugal is a fierce contender with well educated talent pool, language skill, and salary inflation, for now, much lower than in Eastern Europe. So for the longer term, some could be tempted to look west."

Societe Generale European Business Services provides expert courses to ASE, through an initiative coordinated by ABSL, around topics such as "Services Industry", "People Management", "Risk Management", "Project Management", etc. "By this, we hope the students will build a curriculum well in line with the industry needs. We have more than a dozen of our top managers involved in the courses delivery," Olivier Hecq says. The company recently signed a sponsorship contract with Academy+Plus, being Platinum Partner of the coding school. Unlike any other education programs, Academy+Plus creates an environment where education is based on practical challenges, encouraging peer-learning, peer-to-peer review and the creation of a strong value-based IT community in Romania. School's vision is to become an important player in the IT industry ecosystem in Romania by stimulating people to learn computer programming and contributing to the increase of IT workforce in our country. "Our role in this partnership is to support school students in their pursuit of learning computer programming and we will do this by providing mentorship and guidance to a batch of school students that will eventually enter the IT industry. Also, the company started their own internal Java Academy. In the same spirit as Academy+ Plus, they are training IT employees coming from other technologies into one of the most demanded one and the company also converting non IT profiles with a good scientific background and/or professional experience, into IT developer profiles. "With these last two initiatives, we aim at putting approximately 100+ new developers on the market every year. If the top 50 IT employers of the country could do the same, we would be bridging a good part of the gap mentioned above. So there is indeed potential and hope," The SSC IT manager says.

Developing local training programs and academic partnerships

Through SCC Academy, the internal training body of SCC Services Romania, running 2 operation centers at Iasi and Bacau and employing 910 people, the company delivers to employees various training programmes: from technical trainings tailored to Service Desk or Infrastructure Support engineers to leadership development, team management and IT Service Management basics. According to Catalin Constantin, Head of HR at SCC Services Romania, SCC Services Romania is a close collaborator of the Bacau and Iasi Universities, running several projects through which the company's trainers provide the IT professionals of tomorrow the opportunity to learn about IT service management, as it is presented by standards such as ISO20000, the Service Desk Institute or by best practice guides such as ITIL®, frameworks by which SCC Services Romania operates as well. Even more, SCC was a placement partner in an ERASMUS+ project.

Catalin Constantin, Head of HR at SCC Services Romania: "We expect constant communication and involvement in adapting the university curricula to job market realities"

Through this project students from the "Vasile Alecsandri" University of Bacau were sent in a Traineeship Programme at our HQ in UK.Twice a year, the company runs SCC Tech Talents, the graduates' training program developed together with Scoala de Valori and Universities from Iasi and Bacau. More than 150 graduates applied to each edition in both of our locations. Each edition comprises an assessment and career counselling centre, one week of soft skills and behavioural training and 4 weeks of technical training and job rotation. At the end of each edition we manage to hire the best 10 graduates in the program. Nevertheless, SCC Services Romania is a constant presence to the student's events (e.g.: BuzzCamp, Tineriada workshop, JobShop, BEST Training Event and so forth). But through the ERASMUS+ Traineeship Programme SCC managed to move further the national borders, offering to Romanian students the chance to gain valuable skills and unique career development opportunities, to help them develop personally and professionally in an international environment at our HQ in UK.

"We expect constant communication and involvement in adapting the university curricula to job market realities, reconsidering down-sizing some specialities in favour to others that are more sought on the job market, allowing more flexibility to final year students and master students to experiment part-time jobs, adapting the mandatory university practice to real contexts in the job market," Catalin Constantin told Outsourcing-Today.

Trainings lead to jobs

eMAG announced this fall that hired 20 students and graduates out of 25 that have been recruited during the fourth edition of a Talent Internship, a program run between July-August 2017. In total, about 1.000 students applied for this program this year, the retailer announced. Each of the 25 interns was guided by a mentor throughout his or her activity, and 20 of them will continue to work in the company on a full-time and part-time basis. Out of the 20 students, 11 of them took positions in the Software Development teams in Bucharest, Craiova and Iasi, 3 were employed in the Web & Mobile Platform and one in the Commercial, Marketplace, Finance, Marketing, International Development and Legal teams.

"The fourth year of eMAG Talent Internship has given us a great chance to (re) connect with new generations of students and graduates from the very early stages of our recruitment process. We've been building a team of 25 internals with growth potential, digital natives, able to understand the complexity of our business right from the start of their career. For two months, they benefited from an accelerated learning program that gave them an overview of the main processes behind the eMAG platform under the guidance of the mentors involved in each team. At the end of the program, 20 of them still have to work with us, "says Cristina Solea, recruitment manager at eMag.

Cristina Solea, recruitment manager at eMag: "The fourth year of eMAG Talent Internship has given us a great chance to (re) connect with new generations of students and graduates"

The interns participated in an intensive development program through dedicated meetings with company specialists on technical topics, applied workshops prepared by the People team to help them understand what a development process is and how they monitor a learning objective, as well as a dedicated session with Iulian Stanciu, eMAG's CEO.

Money from Google

Union of Romanian Informatics Teachers - UPIR has received a 30,000 US dollars worth grant from Google to create an online community dedicated to computer science high-school teachers. The project is called InfoGim and it aims at better training of IT teachers and improving the quality of the classes, to start in September 2017. It will primarily target the rural area, where there are schools with no specialized teachers or enough material resources.

The UPIR project will include a community-based portal with active members and contributors where teaching and learning resources will be found and developed. This portal will include all those who want to benefit but also contribute to works that are useful in the classroom on the principle of "sharing", as is the case in social networks. Besides it there will be a mentoring and training program, through which seminars will be organized in various localities in the country. Moreover, the community will also have a special program for students to provide useful materials, tests, examples, demonstrations, solved problems.

UPIR joins other similar communities around the world, such as La main à la plate in France, CSPathshala in India or Comunidad Programamos in Spain. More information about Google's computer education programs can be found at
Foreign language skills – good for careers

According to Eucom Survey, 2 out of 3 Romanian employees would learn a foreign language in order to advance in their career

The interim results of the latest survey conducted by Eucom, and published at the beginning of this autumn, show that 2 out of 3 Romanian employees (66% of all respondents) want to learn a foreign language in order to develop professionally and perceive course attendance as a benefit from the company that also aims at personal development. "Employers provide benefits in the form of language training programs with the aim of providing their employees with communication skills in foreign languages for the business environment, but they all realize that this opportunity helps employees to develop on a personal level as well, not only on a professional level," says Delia Dragomir, Eucom Managing Partner.

As far as employee availability to attend courses is concerned, the interim results of the Eucom Survey show that more than half of them (53%) could attend two sessions each week, motivated by their desire to see the first learning results just halfway through the module. One-third of employees would like to attend a foreign language course three times a week for a fast-paced study of the target language and visible results after each course session.

Delia Dragomir, Eucom Managing Partner: "Employers provide benefits in the form of language training programs with the aim of providing their employees with communication skills"

To the question "How would it be appropriate to set out the learning objectives of foreign language course?" eight respondents out of ten (84%) said that they should be established by the student together with the course trainer, thus demonstrating that a close partnership between the trainer and the trainee does facilitate attainment of the objectives. The number of those who believe that they have to set out their learning targets on their own or together with their managers is much lower, thus relying on foreign language specialists.

Another result of the Eucom Survey shows that most respondents who would enroll in a foreign language course for personal development would choose to learn German (45%) or English (27%), followed by Latin languages like French, Spanish or Italian. The motivation for such a preference is the rather large proportion of those already studying or acquainted with English; in 2016 Eucom delivered client companies with English courses in a proportion of 52%.

The trainer's teaching style is essential in motivating an employee not to skip classes, 70% of survey respondents state. The foreign language specialist must be dynamic and interactive, flexible and innovative, a partner of the student throughout the course. An important role in regularly attending course sessions is played by the results obtained by the student, but also the ongoing pursuit of the learning objectives. This way the student ensures that he/she becomes active in the target language.

The Eucom Survey was conducted on a sample of 300 people - students or prospective students in Eucom's programs. The study was conducted between April and June 2017 and it was aimed at identifying why companies request foreign language courses and how employees want the courses dedicated to them to be.
Academy Plus programming school opens at Bucharest with 120 available places
ACADEMY+PLUS, the free of charge programming school launched three years ago at Cluj in partnership with École 42 in Paris, opens also at Bucharest with 120 available places to those who want to learn programming.

"Unique to the educational landscape in Romania, ACADEMY + PLUS aims giving young informatics enthusiasts the chance to become true professionals. This can happen within an environment free of teachers, books and diplomas, through an educational process based on a gamification, "says Daniela Buşcan, Program Manager at ACADEMY + PLUS. "The learning method brings to the forefront the practice, teamwork and collaboration. In short, an organizational micro-environment where learners find out from the first day what is a deadline or how to collaborate and share value to one another," the manager added.

In the first recruiting stage, the candidates should submit to platform where they have to pass timed test of memory and logics. The second selection stage is called Check-in and the candidates are invited to an open chat in which they are free to present their motivations, reasoning and expectations. The final selection stage is called Piscina C (Pool C) where, for 28 days, the candidates enter a boot-camp to learn C programming language, ended with a test of 8 hours. This year, the C pools will be organized between August-October. The entire curricula of this alternative school that starts in November, has a structure of 21 levels that will enable students to get accustomed and choose three specializations lines: Unix, algoritms, computer graphics or web development, full stack.

According to Daniela Buşcan, after six to nine months, the students of this school will reach the level of junior IT and they will get counseling to find a job within the IT industry. Since it launched 3 years ago, out of 198 students of this school, 110 already work for IT companies.

Daniela Buşcan, Program Manager at ACADEMY + PLUS: "The learning method brings to the forefront the practice, teamwork and collaboration"

The Informal School of IT expands its footprint at Brasov

The Informal School of IT, the most important project of alternative education and professional reconversion in Romania, is expanding its activity in Brasov, a press release informs.
The Informal School of IT is present in Cluj-Napoca, Bucharest, Iasi and Timisoara, cities with potential for development on the IT & C market, and is addressed to technology-loving people who want a career in IT and to the local companies specialized in IT & Software who want to recruit well-trained staff, equipped with skills and practical skills tested by IT specialists.

"Braşov ranks fourth in the top of the counties with the most numerous IT staff and is a strategic location for us. Although the number of employees has increased significantly over the past few years, companies face a large shortage of candidates. The Informal School of IT comes to meet this need and will initially start in Brasov programs for IT initiation, software testing and front-end web development, and we will add other courses that we organize in other citiesas well. In addition, we analyze the needs of the companies in Braşov and the opportunity to include new disciplines addressing local specificities," said Patricia Barbu, Site Manager, IT Braşov Informal School.

"In an increasingly competitive global IT market, Romanian companies are constantly pursuing both the quality of their services and the number of employees. The typology of the classic employee has changed, it evolves and requires more and more knowledge: both soft, technical and business from other areas. The Informal School of IT helps companies provide them with trained people in a very close context to the real world. We do it with mentors who are experts in the field, we use a curriculum designed to meet the needs of the companies, in a very practical spirit. Candidates undergo a rigorous selection process, participate in courses in a demanding system, and are ready for an interview with the companies. We aim to be as close as possible to companies to understand their needs, take into account our feedback and evolve with them," said Sorin Stan, CEO of the Informal IT School.

The outcome

More than 2,200 people have graduated from the Informal School of IT. Any person with the minimum age of 18, with a good academic background (university or high school graduate), with or without professional experience, may be eligible for enrollment at the school's courses. Admission to courses is based on a rigorous selection process. After registration, the candidates go through three stages in the selection process. It is a specific procedure of the school that aims to establish the hard and soft skills of each candidate, the skills for a certain course or to reorient it to another discipline. The first step involves analyzing information provided by candidates when signed up on the school's website. In the second stage, candidates run a counter-time online test. This test is eliminatory. Stage three is a face-to-face interview with candidates who have achieved a good result in the previous test. The interview is supported by a HR specialist or a recruiter.

More than 120 software companies in Romania have hired staff from IT Informatics graduates.
The mentors of the school are professionals who work in top companies in the programming industry and truly understand all aspects of real IT work, from leading projects and large teams to working with customers. 85 mentors are teaching at this time in the classrooms of the school. The role of the mentors is to bring the practical way of learning into the classroom and to develop a simulative environment that best reflects the real work environment of an IT firm. Students interact directly with school mentors in interactive sessions in the form of practical workshops and soft skills sessions that prepare graduates for the hiring process. Each discipline is coordinated by a selected manager based on the performance and practical experience of the field / technology concerned. Managers work in top companies in the programming industry and are concerned with improving learning techniques and bringing the latest technology into the classrooms. More than 300 participants are currently in the classrooms from the whole country and will be guided for the hiring process in IT companies.

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