ServiceNow Tackles the Technology Skills Gap in EMEA

The technology skills gap and its impact on those seeking to follow information technology careers has been widely reported on a global basis. There is a tangible disconnect between the number of skilled technology practitioners at all levels and the IT jobs being created across a global business community that is now embracing digital transformation, cloud-first delivery models, analytics and intelligent automation.

In EMEA, ServiceNow is taking proactive steps to address this issue at a grass roots level, in particular through its involvement in both university-led programmes as well as job reskilling initiatives to provide candidates with the appropriate technical skills.

Faez Ahmed, Global Director of Training & Certification at ServiceNow, talks about his ambition for closing the skills gap with IT training and how ServiceNow’s programs are providing university students with international opportunities for IT jobs that might otherwise have not been available.

Service Matters: The ServiceNow Academic programme aims to tackle the technology skills gap by providing IT training; how did you get involved?

Faez Ahmed: Both partners and employees within the ServiceNow business were reaching out to me asking “how can we fulfil our demand for technical skills? How can you help?”. It was clear there was a real demand for fresh talent that could plug the technology skills gap and the Academic programme offered a way to meet that demand.

Service Matters: Can you explain the Academic Programme to us and what it is designed to achieve?

Faez Ahmed: The objective of the Academic program is to equip the next generation of talent in the ecosystem with the technical skills necessary to learn, develop and innovate using current cutting-edge technology in IT jobs. ServiceNow provides the platform for these learners to achieve this.

Service Matters: How does the scheme run in practice and has it been successful in helping people pursue information technology careers?

Faez Ahmed: There are two parts to the Academic Programme; A job re-skills initiative and targeting students in Academia (both undergraduates and postgraduates which also includes the Erasmus programme)

For the Job reskills programme, we collaborate with Academia, our Partners, Customers, and a workforce development initiative that is typically funded by local government.

We also have the standalone University programme in which students from approved Universities participate in Hackathons where they build apps based on requirements submitted by customers and partners of ServiceNow. Part of this is also Erasmus, the study abroad programme designed to match university students with businesses from another European country, who can provide a work placement for six or 12 months. Essentially, it’s a ‘skilling up’ programme, with an emphasis on ensuring long-term employability by directing graduates towards applied technologies that are crucial to working in contemporary digital environments.

Erasmus also has a direct multi-cultural aspect to it given that participants also get the opportunity to live in a foreign country and learn another language, and sharpen an existing level of competency.

We started working with the Erasmus programme in 2005 when we partnered with the University of Salerno in Italy in a pilot programme. Working with the university to identify a suitable computer science candidate who could join us in our UK office to experience multiple aspects of our business, working through support, then development, then solution consulting.

The pilot proved the value of the programme in supporting employability as we hired our first candidate! Since then, we’ve increased our investment in the study abroad programme, recruiting five Erasmus students in 2017 of which four we have employed. Due to the success, I’ve been keen to expand our commitment further and this summer we’re anticipating that we will host an additional 10 Italian students.

Service Matters: What has your experience of the programme been to date? Has anything surprised you?

Faez Ahmed: I’ve been impressed by the dedication of the students in their drive to be successful. This isn’t a scheme that they’ve taken lightly and there is a clear commitment to making the most of the opportunity. The students of today are hungry to use the technology that is at his/her disposal, and most who we have come across have been full of desire to succeed and were motivated to achieve the level of technical acumen that ServiceNow expects of them.

Service Matters: How do you assess the success of the programme for ServiceNow?

Faez Ahmed: There have been many notable successes. One of the applications developed on the ServiceNow platform by an Erasmus student achieved an industry award. He created a task-based system for email, which automatically directed the emails to the relevant person or group meaning that our email inbox is managed extremely efficiently.

In the job reskills programme, one of the students is now successfully responsible for the entire Service Catalog of a G2K customer. It’s an incredible journey from where she was in her career (working in a restaurant) to what she has achieved.

Service Matters: What would be your advice to other businesses or ServiceNow partners who are interested in getting involved in a similar programme?

Faez Ahmed: Attracting the right calibre of person, whether from Academia or from the market in general, is critical for the success of this programme and as such you will need to involve your marketing team to assist.

Equally, you will need to build a programme that addresses the skill gaps from the sources you get the learners from and focus on making the learners employable.

Service Matters: What is your ambition for ServiceNow’s approach to closing the technology skills gap in EMEA moving forward?

Faez Ahmed: This has been a great success so far and we’ll continue to expand our programme as it’s clearly delivering the fresh talent that we are looking for at ServiceNow. We are also working across Europe with our partners on a variety of schemes that focus on skills and talent development.

In France, for example, we have re-skilled more than 200 adults into technical roles as part of a French government-sponsored initiative. We are also working with universities in the UK Rumania, Italy and Germany to host hackathon-style events for undergraduates in computer science and Engineering, where they work on building real-world apps, under scenarios submitted by ServiceNow partners and customers.

It’s about creating the platform to showcase young talent and enabling those businesses that face a skills shortage to offer an opening to those that demonstrate drive and potential.