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Report From India: U.S. Could Learn From Offshorer's Training Obsession

Many companies in the United States complain about an IT talent shortage. Indian IT companies face brutal competition for talent, and one big part of their answer is huge hire-and-train efforts. There's something for U.S. companies to learn here.
Many companies in the United States complain about an IT talent shortage. Indian IT companies face brutal competition for talent, and one big part of their answer is huge hire-and-train efforts. There's something for U.S. companies to learn here.After visits to campuses in India for Infosys, IBM, Microland, TCS, Wipro, HCL, and others over the last two weeks, one inescapable conclusion is that these companies are, at least in part, in the education business. Infosys will spend $170 million on employee training this year, with new out-of-college hires spending six months at on-site training. That's where Infosys will give, say, a civil engineer the courses in software and IT needed to get them ready to work on projects. Infosys CEO S. Gopalakrishnan thinks other companies will do more in this area, and sees a business opportunity for Infosys in selling "learning services" to its clients. "Education is going to be lifelong," Gopalakrishnan says.

Visiting Wipro's Bangalore campus this week, walking past the training classrooms, I felt like I was at a college campus, there were so many "students" milling about on break. Wipro has capacity on this campus to train 5,000 people at a time. Every employee is required to get at least nine days of training every year, or the supervisor's asked to explain.

Of course, this isn't a perfect comparison for U.S. companies that aren't in the IT business, ones that use IT as part of a business making loans or cars or soap or medicine. IT skills are the core business of the IT services companies. And India's IT industry is so young, there just aren't that many experienced people to choose from, so there's no choice but to grow their own talent. And there are certainly U.S. companies that take training and people development very seriously.

However, less than half -- 45% -- of U.S. IT staffers get paid training, according to our National Salary Survey of more than 7,200 tech pros last year. The majority are on their own to keep their skills up to date, and one in five paid their own way to do so last year, our survey finds. ( Click here for IW editor in chief Rob Preston's take on this topic.) Also, we often hear from IT pros who feel many U.S. employers' hiring process is designed to find reasons to X-out would-be employees: Not the right certification, not the precise X years of experience, no experience with this particular software package.

There's a legitimate debate over whether there's an IT skills shortage in the United States. But in labor-tight India, the answer at IT and end-user companies is far more often to hire and train talented people, assuming they won't find the perfect candidate. More U.S. companies would do well to borrow some of that spirit.

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Brian T. Horowitz, Contributing Reporter
Samuel Greengard, Contributing Reporter
Nathan Eddy, Freelance Writer
Brandon Taylor, Digital Editorial Program Manager
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing