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Developing Angular JavaScript (JS) talent through a Next Generation candidate training program

LEARNING SOLUTIONS | APPLICATION DEVELOPMENT

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Developing JavaScript talent through a candidate training program

TEKsystems developed and delivered a comprehensive candidate training program to upskill and supply qualified entry level Angular JS developers for an enterprise of Blue Cross Blue Shield. The program included learning analysis and role-based curriculum design, talent recruitment, technical assessment development, training implementation, mentoring, delivery management and enhancement.

Client Profile

Our client is an enterprise of Blue Cross Blue Shield that provides comprehensive health insurance across several U.S. states, having a total of 40 million members in health insurance. TEKsystems has been a leading staffing partner since 2003. We began delivering education and training support in 2016.

Industry landscape

The company growing pains that come with inevitable technology changes have always been a challenging endeavor—especially when it comes time to finding the talent who are skilled in the latest technology. Casting a wide net and recruiting the best people for the job is taxing and time consuming. With IT unemployment at an all-time low, attracting skilled developers has never been more difficult—or expensive. Fewer job seekers with the right skills, means throwing a job ad on a career site is no longer enough to recruit qualified candidates.

This high demand drives up the cost of developers who possess significant experience, making junior-level candidates an appealing option. But while junior-level job seekers may be less expensive, college graduates who are joining the workforce rarely have the knowledge and training required to support the growth of complex company initiatives.

To navigate the job market, employers need to go where the prospects are, even if that means getting creative with their approach to yield the most results. Evolving recruiting strategies is critical to combatting the shortage of qualified job applicants in today’s IT hiring climate. Many organizations consider outsourcing outside of their local market, increasing salaries or supplementing with additional benefits; however, exploring learning and development programs can be the most cost-effective, especially in today’s competitive environment.

Situation

Our client, a healthcare insurance enterprise of Blue Cross Blue Shield, was re-platforming their mobile development platform and in search of AngularJS developers to grow their mobile development team to support the move from a .NET to Angular framework. Their current team consisted mostly of senior-level developers, which was becoming expensive and hard to find in the marketplace. The client wanted to hire entry- or junior-level developers to bring in fresh perspectives, as well as keep costs low, but quickly realized that low IT unemployment was a large hurdle to overcome.

The client initiated the idea to acquire entry-level talent by pursuing newly graduated candidates from nearby universities and grooming them for the client’s specific developer roles. They desired a pool of productive, entry-level developers who were innovative eager to learn and willing to come on as contractors. Additionally, the client wanted to keep talent local as a way to “give back” to the community. However, the client did not have the resources to locate the right candidates to train or provide the right kind of training through a formal framework. While they did have an internship program, participants were not given adequate time with internal employees or focused training to address the type of developers needed to fill client positions.

Solution

The client turned to TEKsystems, their long-time partner, to build a training program that would help find the right people and keep costs low.

We evaluated the client’s needs and constraints, understanding their overall goal of building out a full team that wasn’t top heavy from an experience and cost perspective. Using this direction, TEKsystems took a creative and customized approach with how we could support them. It became clear that a blended training approach where trainees would receive a combination of education, experience, and exposure would be the most efficient way to maximize the local talent pool.

Our Next-Generation Workforce program would develop a recruitment and training program to upskill local university graduates in AngularJS skills and prepare them for the client’s work environment and culture. The client would then be able to select qualified candidates and offer them a contract-to-hire position.

The Next-Generation Workforce program would consist of six major components:

Analysis and curriculum design

TEKsystems Learning Consultant would meet with the client to perform an audience and task analysis to best understand what skill sets our placements would need to successfully perform within the client’s environment, as well as what would be required of them to be job ready on day one and advance in their productivity at day 30, 60, 90 and so on. From this analysis, TEKsystems designed a role-based training plan to meet the requirements of the client.

Recruitment

Leveraging our network of IT professionals and utilizing a robust qualification process to drive our sourcing strategy, including face-to-face interviews, reference checks and knowledge measurement tests, TEKsystems would screen and recruit qualified candidates to enter the Next-Generation Workforce training program.

Because of the depth and breadth of our services, we would provide a level of flexibility in bringing in the right skill sets when required without over-expending resources. As part of a risk mitigation plan to ensure that candidates who were offered contracts after the program could not walk away with the free training, a reimbursement contract would be required upfront to pay back training costs if they didn’t accept a contract job offer or left on their own will prior to six months.

Assessment development

Leveraging our senior developer assessment used to recruit senior level developers, our Applications Development Services team would re-create a customized test and evaluation to assess what the participants learned, identify strengths and weaknesses, measure the effectiveness of the training, and determine their aptitude to effectively apply these skills once in the developer role. Participants would also be observed to evaluate their abilities beyond technology capabilities, such as showing leadership traits or characteristics that would be a good cultural fit for the client.

Training delivery

TEKsystems would create a fully comprehensive, hands-on curriculum surrounding AngularJS development and implement the program over a 3 week period. Our instructor would engage directly with participants, helping them to learn and apply Angular JS developer skills to in-class projects as well as build on their understanding of developer concepts to become more engrained and transferrable. We would also teach participants Agile methodology to understand the concepts used by the client to organize and assign work, enabling them to hit the ground running when they arrived on site, if hired. Because the participants would not yet be official contractors, company policy stated that the program could not be held on site. We would work with the local office, TEKsystems help desk, and security team to hold the training at a nearby TEKsystems facility.

Candidate qualification and evaluation

Throughout the course of the boot camp and candidate development, a Delivery Manager would work with the candidates to provide feedback and additional insight into the client environment, as well as work with the instructor to stay informed on candidate development. Near the end of the training, participants would undergo a final coding assessment, as well as interview for the position. Our Delivery Management team would use the performance on the coding assessment, instructor observation and testing throughout the training, and the interview to provide recommendations to the client for a final hiring decision.

Mentor development

The client would identify internal senior developers to act as mentors to the entry level developers post-placement. The client’s developers did not have mentoring experience but would be able to take advantage of an internal mentoring program. We would then provide a learning consultant to mentor the client’s developers in becoming mentors to ensure they were performing at a high-quality capacity, focusing on enhancing their coaching skills. The mentorship piece of the program was crucial to the success of the entry level developers to ensure they were supported and had guidance in their new environment.

Results

TEKsystems successfully developed and implemented the Next-Generation Workforce program for our client, maintaining their requested timeline and exceeding goals. We recruited and enrolled 12 strong, local candidates into the program who underwent a rigorous, hands-on, coding-focused curriculum.

It was important to understand each participant’s technical skill and aptitude and cultural fit, who had shown the most growth and who would be able to perform in the client’s environment. Leveraging our Applications Development practice, we tested their expertise through projects and interviews to provide insight and determine if they would be the best fit. From our assessments, we were then able to provide thorough evaluations and recommendations to the client so that they would be able to make an informed hiring decision.

Out of the 12 participants who went through training, five were selected by the client to move into a contract-to-hire position, with the initial plan of being assigned junior-level unit testing work. However, those who were offered contracts exceeded expectations within the company and were immediately assigned more difficult work. Along with contributing to the development of a Medicaid mobile application, the new hires built a member emulation tool to mimic what the client’s customers see while using their application, which has been used to test enhancements and new features. The tool has been widely circulated throughout the company and has saved the client a lot of time and money without the involvement of any other developers. The client has seen continued growth with these first Next-Generation Workforce program graduates, who are leveraging the developer skills taught during the training program to drive improved applications. As of today, three of the program graduates have been hired full-time.

Since hiring, our Delivery Management team has been responsible for the onboarding and ongoing management of the Next-Generation Workforce team, partnering with the client’s mobile team to create metrics to measure their performance and success. This work continues as enhancing these metrics beyond measures of productivity are investigated.

Pleased with the lasting success of the Next-Generation Workforce program hires, the client felt confident to continue the program to place more candidates within the company. To improve upon our success, TEKsystems reevaluated the first program to enhance the curriculum and bridge any training gaps. We discovered multiple opportunities to improve the program.

Classroom configuration

Our team learned that participants who were offered a contract with the company may have been more successful because they sat close or next to the instructor during the program. To ensure all participants would receive the same experience, the configuration of the training room was adjusted and the instructor must move around to all the trainees.

Pre-work

Online courses on basic fundamental skills were optional for the first class of participants to take before the training program to ensure they were comfortable coming into the training. We found that those who took these online courses were better prepared for the program, and therefore it is now mandatory for candidates to take. This certifies that candidates are up to speed and ready to move through the program without needing a refresher on day one.

Candidate profile

Our Application Development team personally interviewed participants who successfully passed the training to gain feedback on their experience and what they thought helped them succeed. This feedback allowed us to tweak our candidate profile so that we could be more exact when recruiting candidates to take the class.

Our team partnered with the client to develop a unique learning solution that met their exact needs. This approach truly showed our commitment to making sure this program was a success. Our ability to listen to the client and understand their needs, as well as their limitations, enabled us to support them with a custom solution, exceeding their goal of building a training program that wasn’t top heavy from an experience and cost perspective, as well as delivering their community vision to provide opportunities to local college graduates.

As the client’s trust in our partnership has grown, so has the scale and depth of the program. Expanding on the current success, the client has engaged us for additional iterations of the program, including greater hiring capacity, with eight additional contract-to-hire offers. While our work to stand up their education program has ended, we are continuing to work with them to improve and enhance the program moving forward.

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