A common complaint among businesses is that they have open positions and want to hire, but can’t find the right talent.
There’s some truth to the argument; there aren’t enough people getting technical education, aren’t enough people studying engineering and maths, and our immigration policy forces too many talented people to leave the country.
But when businesses throw up their hands and ask others to come up with solutions, they’re forgetting that they’ve played a large role in creating it by reducing training programs and refusing to raise salaries.
If you need more production capacity, you build it. If you need employees with a certain skill set, you train them. It’s a simple equation that businesses have forgotten. Employees don’t always come perfectly formed. They’re an investment.
As knowledge-workers become more important, that becomes doubly true.
Rackspace, a Texas-based IT hosting company, found itself a victim of the skills gap. According to Fortune, it needed more people with “open cloud computing skills” — the ability to make apps run on cloud-based servers and infrastructure.
Rather than poaching people or complaining about the state of American education, its chairman and co-founder is opening what he’s calling Open Cloud Academy to train the high-quality, entry-level people he needs.
The school will teach 6-8 week courses in in-demand skills like software development, network security and cyber security. Preference will be given to veterans. Rackspace hopes to hire a third of the graduates themselves.
When we still have high unemployment, that’s something that’s good for the country at large and the community that the school is in.
It’s all part of a strategic lesson more managers would be well served to remember. Finding ready-made candidates is cheaper and faster. But investing in people not only gets you people with exactly the right skills that know a company, it gives a long-term competitive advantage because the ability to train is a skill few companies spend time developing.
Rackspace will have to put time and money into figuring out how to do this right. But in the end, they’ll have access to better talent than competitors.
In the long run, companies that train people win out because they attract great talent that want new skills, but also want to work while they learn them. Clay Christensen argues that such businesses will be more successful, and end up disrupting business schools. It’s an investment well worth making.
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