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Size and quality of the talent pool are two factors one would consider while selecting an outsourcing destination.
In the past couple of weeks I was exposed to three private initiatives – in Ukraine, Belarus and Hungary – aiming at growing the number of software developers and teaching to them skills in up-to-date technologies. In fact, the training provided by universities is fundamentally strong in all of three countries, but employers notice a widening gap between theory and algorithms taught in school and state-of-the-art technologies applied in real-life projects.
And the industry players reached the stage where they can afford to contribute to local IT markets by training new software developers.
In Ukraine, UNIT Factory was launched in April. The program’s approach is borrowed from the French IT school called 42. Unit Factory’s take on education is unconventional, students will learn by doing projects, and they won’t get assessed. 900 people will be accepted through the first trial month of the program, and only 300 of them will be selected to continue the whole curriculum of about 3 years. The candidates don’t even need to have coding skills, only to demonstrate their motivation and abilities. The education is free provided that the student will work for a Ukrainian software company for at least 3 years after completion.
The program is financed by K.Fund belonging to the Ukrainian entrepreneur Vasyl Khmelnytsky.
Mr. Khmelnitsky himself runs a real estate development and is engaged in the biggest infrastructure projects in the county, and he has also interest in pharmaceutical and media businesses. In 2012, in partnership with leading IT companies in Ukraine, K.Fund has also sponsored the opening of the first inter-corporate IT university BIONIC University, where students work in teams on real-life projects under the mentorship of senior specialists.
In an interview to the Ukrainian Forbes in 2013, he admitted that his main motivation was to stop the brain drain, when more than 5,000 technical specialists were fleeing the country annually. Thus, inspired by his visit to Bangalore, a megapolis full of branches of American companies, he wanted Ukraine to become an attractive destination not only for plain outsourced software development, but also for establishing R&D centers.
In Belarus, just like in other CEE countries, the IT industry is living a boom with the job market getting tough for employers. The problem is rooted deeper than just in supply-demand imbalances. The owners of software development companies complain that fresh graduates often do not possess skills required for state-of-the-art projects.
There’re two main reasons to that. On the one hand, the educational machine is sluggish, especially compared to the dynamism of the IT industry. Proper compensation of talented teachers is another side of the issue. For your reference, a school teacher in Belarus earns $250-400, while a Junior developer in local outsourcing companies may easily bring home more than $1000, at the same time as getting their university degree. Obviously, talented teachers, who could have prepared hundreds of engineers, are forced out of school in search of more attractive salaries.
Perhaps you have heard of the deal between Facebook and the Belarusian startup MSQRD? The team was mentored by Yuri Gurski, and shortly after their successful exit he announced, together with his brother and business partner Dmitry and a few other IT entrepreneurs, the initiative to create an Association to financially support talented teachers of exact sciences in Belarus and to improve the level of school education in the country.
In a long run, they hope to solve the challenge common for most post-soviet countries with a strong IT industry: the ecosystem needs talented engineers to work on complex projects and create cool startups, but the educational system fails to raise and supply enough quality specialists. “University curriculum is revised once in 5 years while technologies change much faster. And we need to teach our kids the future of software development, and not the past”, said Mr. Lozner, former co-founder of Epam, one of the donors supporting the initiative.
They hired a former official of the Ministry of Education who will work on implementing a dedicated financial support of best institutions, and brilliant and enthusiast teachers. Currently, they are working on registering the Association and finding a correct legal framework. It’s not that easy to legally give money to the teachers…
It’s with the same intention to grow bigger the pie of talented software developers in Hungary that several IT companies started Greenfox Academy in November 2015. This is a 4-month offline training programme, and 40% of students enrolled in the first batch were women. More than half of students could participate in the course (which costs over €3,000) free of charge through scholarships sponsored by some key players of the Hungarian IT market (Epam, Lufthansa, Emarsys) supporting the initiative. In return, these students agreed to accept a one-year job offer from one of the sponsors. 80% of the course graduates were already hired.
It can not be disputed that more and more European and American companies take strategic decisions to source for talent and to build great R&D teams in Eastern Europe. And as a devoted promoter of IT expertise of CEE, we at GoalEurope are happy that local companies invest in growing new engineers.
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