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IT service providers and universities partner to develop U.S. outsourcing talent

Stephanie Overby | June 17, 2013
A domestic outsourcing provider talks about partnering with universities to build a domestic outsourcing model, growing dissatisfaction with offshoring, the real problem with Gen Y, and how immigration reform might impact outsourcing in the U.S.

But many of the biggest players offshore also have a growing U.S. presence. Why don't these customers simply approach their incumbent providers about conducting these projects at their onshore delivery centers?

Behrendt: That's what we would call 'dressing up the pig': putting a front-end on a back-end to make it work. But the front-end has the same type of problems as the back-end in terms of moving to agile or getting close to the business. Even if the provider puts people onsite, it's still not going to work.

You have three established project centers in the U.S.— in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota. But you also maintain a presence in Chennai. What work do you send offshore?

Behrendt: Our Indian operation supports our U.S. centers. We push our testing (except for lead testing) to Chennai. If there are certain risk areas like data conversion or migration with a project, we staff up in Chennai to handle that. We also do off-hours support in India.

How do your offshore-weary clients react to your India-based support?
Behrendt: Once they get involved with our U.S.-based project centers, within 30 days, their attitude about location changes to 'We don't care where this is done. Push it where you need to push it.'

There are a number of labor challenges to deal with in the U.S. The most experienced middle managers are aging and dropping out of the IT talent pool. Keeping current with the latest technology skills — cloud, mobility, analytics, social — is difficult.

Behrendt: The aging workforce is a hot topic everywhere you go. We recruit more experienced, older workers in places like Minneapolis. They're settled and probably fit in better in the urban environment. We recruit them and they will continue to be a source of labor. The recessions killed them financially. They're still putting kids through college. They have an economic incentive to work harder. It's a good source, but not the best source.

Over the last nine years, the best source of new skills for our U.S.-based project centers has been Gen Y employees — those between the ages of 21 to 30 years old. They're highly adaptable and willing to work in what we call our "rural" centers in Pierre, S.D. or Valley City, N.D. Technology skills are not the problem.

Anyone who has a kid that age knows what the problem is. They went to a tier-two or three university, say Iowa State or the University of Minnesota, Duluth. They got an education, but need us to provide vision for their career. As an employer, we have to help them develop and execute that vision. We have to help them mature.


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