How Cognizant used boot camps to recruit job-ready employees

Today’s global work landscape is full of uncharted territory. In an amazingly short time span, employers have been confronted with rapidly evolving technology, the work-from-home movement, the aptly named “Great Resignation,” and myriad other circumstances.

These unique challenges require creative, tech-focused solutions, and many organizations must rely on consulting companies like Cognizant, one of the world’s leading professional service organizations.

Eric Westphal, leader of global workforce strategy and economic development at Cognizant, says that a forward-thinking, proactive strategy is a key component of his company’s success.

“Through the years,” Westphal says, “we’ve transitioned from a company that helps you run your business more efficiently to a company that guides you toward running your business differently.”

An Inside Job

This method applies not only to Cognizant’s network of global clients but also to its own workforce. While new Cognizant prospects and hires may have the education necessary for a particular role, it’s difficult to mirror the specific knowledge that typically comes from on-the-job experience — meaning critical time is often lost while an employee gets up to speed.

To minimize this lag and target specialized hires, Cognizant partnered with 2U, the parent company of edX, to not only recruit talent from boot camps but also to help future employees develop skills before they’re even hired. This step is crucial in helping to close a technology skills gap currently seen in the workforce nationwide.

“College graduates come out of the gate with great knowledge and problem-solving skills,” says Allen Shaheen, executive vice president of digital engineering at Cognizant, “but they don’t yet have the specific targeted capabilities that allow us to place them on projects and be productive straight away. Our relationship with 2U has helped bridge that gap with higher education.”

Streamlined Approach to Recruitment

As a large Fortune 500 company, Cognizant has a robust hiring and recruiting structure, but it can be difficult to recruit locally for clients in certain regions. The company found that recruiting from regionally recognized boot camps is a smart way to find promising candidates.

For example, a Cognizant team that primarily serves insurance clients may focus recruitment efforts on Hartford, Connecticut, for its vast number of insurance companies based in the area. Cognizant’s relationship with the UConn Coding Boot Camp allows for cost-effective, expedient candidate recruitment.

Cognizant’s top job roles also include full stack development and software developers who understand front- and back-end development and employment of applications. To date, Cognizant has hired nearly 100 boot camp students from our partner institutions.

“We’re hearing from our teams that these individuals bring deep industry experience, as many have been working for a few years and are switching careers,” says Westphal. “Somebody with a finance background is incredibly valuable to our financial services practice as they can better understand those clients’ specific needs and core functions.”

An Impactful Hiring Strategy

In a world where the search for qualified employees is competitive and often frustrating, companies are seeking new ways to adjust their recruiting strategies, raising the bar from simply finding the right employees to finding standout employees with proven abilities and a ready-to-train mindset. 

“The need for qualified IT workers is at an unprecedented level, and our partnership with 2U is providing the skills needed to be successful in an IT career,” says Westphal.

With a view to cultivating the talent needed for today's technological landscape,  2U and Cognizant have been collaborating on creating multiple pathways – including using the edX platform and content.

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