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ExLab Prepares Next-Gen Graduates for Careers in IT

Posted by Judye Reed on Jul 21, 2017 10:00:00 AM
Judye Reed

Exploratory Boot Camp Lab graduates celebrate their success in collaboration, communication, and innovation to prepare for real-life careers in the technology industry.

The workforce talent gap is real, and finding IT staff is the number two role employers find hardest to fill.1 This trend has implications for resellers who are looking to recruit and retain a talented IT workforce.

It’s the combination of on-the-job skills and business experience gained in college or before that are the hallmarks of tomorrow’s next-gen IT professionals. Your business expects more from graduates than ever before, and students are often unaware of the many different type of skills needed in the tech industry.

If you’re facing the challenge of finding top talent to fill your positions, fear not. One way to establish a connection with your local workforce is through programs like the Exploratory Lab (ExLab) Boot Camp, sponsored by Tech Data.

Preparing Students for Technology Careers

ExLab fills the gap between real-life skills and academic learning by providing students with experiences to prepare them for the business world. A joint initiative between community-based employers and educational institutions, ExLab is sponsored by Tech Data, Valpak, Agile Thought, Tampa Bay Technology Forum (TBTF), and St. Pete College. 

The program is open to students from all disciplines and is focused on helping students develop the critical business skills that appeal to employers. Participants also have the opportunity to network with community leaders and discover job opportunities in the tech industry to answer the question, “I have my degree, now what do I do?” 

“It’s more about their skills that brings value to the workplace,” stated Patricia Gehant, Managing Partner of Gehant & Associates, LLC. “New technologies are outpacing the ability of educational institutions to prepare students for emerging careers in IT that’ll still be valid in five years. So it’s hard for students to know what IT career direction to take.

“Businesses are now playing a greater role in preparing new graduates for today’s business world, no matter what degree they hold.”

An Immersive Experience − It Takes a Village

ExLab Boot Camp took place on Tech Data’s Clearwater campus where students with diverse backgrounds explored a wide range of IT career options. An immersive experience, over 40 employees mentored students and shared the latest trends and strategies shaping the IT industry to help them discover in-demand career options they didn’t know existed in their local communities or on a national level.

Angie McCourt, Vice President, Product Marketing Global, AIS Cisco Solutions at Tech Data explained how the program works. “Students were challenged with developing a business case for a new IoT solution and were encouraged to use critical thinking and reasoning to define a problem, develop the solution, and create a business and investment plan for their defined target audience. For the first time, high school students were also included, with the goal of preparing for success earlier rather than later.”

McCourt finds that ExLab students were better prepared for real-life situations, their interest in technology careers increased, and they gained confidence about deciding their future education or career direction.

Making a Difference and Delivering Measurable Results

The fifth class of ExLab students recently graduated, joining 88 students who have already successfully completed the program. To date, 79 percent of the students seeking a job or internship have been successful within six months after graduating from the program.

The top three benefits of the boot camp from the students’ perspective were understanding what careers are available in the tech industry, discovering topics not covered in school, and networking with executives and hiring leaders. 70 percent of students felt the content in the program was not taught in the classroom, and 100 percent believed what they learned is what organizations expect new hires to know when they graduate.

“Two of our current facilitators are former ExLab graduates,” McCourt shared during the event. “Rafael Murga and Andy Fernandez are employed at Tech Data and Veeam respectively.”

Murga and Fernandez led the Design Thinking workshop and Integrated Marketing session and received the highest topic and presentation scores from the group. Another 92 percent of students found the class “Taking Risks in Business Trends,” facilitated by Tech Data’s David Jordan, helped them apply what they learned throughout their Boot Camp experience.

“It’s very rewarding to see graduates return to the program and invest in others,” McCourt reflected.

Everyone, from students to communities to employers, benefits from a diverse, well-prepared work force. Early preparation, career awareness, and the right skill sets can make the difference between landing the job or not. And investing in the future of your local work force can heighten your company’s community profile and lead to top talent discoveries for your business.

Want to participate in Tech Data’s next ExLab Boot Camp? Contact Angie McCourt at angela.mccourt@techdata.com.

1 http://manpowergroup.com/talent-shortage-2016

Tags: Exploratory Lab Boot Camp, ExLab