One of the reasons North Carolina was able to convince information technology company Infosys to expand in Raleigh — besides $25 million in incentives — was access to the state’s vibrant universities.
Now, less than a year after opening its office in Wake County, Infosys is already striking a partnership with North Carolina State University.
N.C. State and Infosys began a three-year collaboration this year to train some of its newest hires in the applications of data science, a field that N.C. State has made a name for itself nationally. The goal is to get new hires up to speed on the tech training they will need to work for Infosys, which helps build information and technology systems for companies around the world.
Infosys, a global technology consulting firm based in India, is currently ramping up its headcount in the area as part of its agreement with the state. It plans to hire 2,000 people in Wake County over the next five years.
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The company is still in the early days of establishing its presence in Raleigh, and so far it has hired 770 people since the innovation hub opened, said Deverre Lierman, head of the U.S. Southeast region and the Raleigh Innovation Hub for Infosys. Though Lierman noted not all of those employees are based at the hub — some are based at clients’ offices where they are working on projects.
Partnering with the university to train its employees is critical in today’s job market, she said, adding that the company is aggressively recruiting from college campuses right now. Infosys hired more than 1,200 campus recruits over the past year and expects to double that number this year, she said.
“The war for talent is on, and Infosys believes the answer to that is to create that talent,” Lierman said. “We are looking, of course, at college graduates with computer science degrees, but there are simply not enough of those, so we are looking across all of STEM and even liberal arts majors, where there is interest in pursuing technology.
“We will take those hires and train them — so we are investing in the creation of that talent. It’s the only way we can get it done.”
And that is where N.C. State comes in.
The collaboration with N.C. State will draw university faculty together with Infosys employees to provide training in foundational data science skills such as statistics, data visualization, machine learning and programming in Python. At least 150 new employees are expected to take part in the training, though the company said it would be open to expanding the partnership if it is successful.
This isn’t the first time that N.C. State has contracted with a local corporation to provide training, said Daniel McGurrin, the director of N.C. State Executive Education, in an interview. He said in recent years the company has also worked with Cisco and MetLife, both companies with large presences in the Triangle, to train employees.
The training is not just a good thing for the companies, but also for the future earning potential of the workers that participate.
“There’s definitely the case that any kind of development program makes an employee more valuable,” said McGurrin, whose executive training program has been around since 2009. “The training is mostly about making Infosys stronger, but it will likely create some opportunities for companies to recruit away (new talent). We saw the same thing with Cisco. We have been working with them for five years, and one thing they work on internally is how do we retain these employees because they now have more attractive skills.”
McGurrin said the demand for N.C. State’s educational services, especially in the realms of data science, has increased in recent years, especially among small and mid-size companies. The companies pay NC State for the training but neither Infosys or State disclosed the terms of their deal. McGurrin said the goal is not for the university “to make a ton of money.”
The program costs a company around $20,000 per student — a fee that includes lodging, partial salary and benefits, a spokeswoman for the university said. Approximately 25 percent of the cost goes to N.C. State for the skills training.
Typically, the university has worked mainly with larger corporations, but it is currently working on an online training program that smaller companies can use to train employees, McGurrin said.
The program is also just another item that the state and Wake County can use to pitch to companies considering moving to the area.
“The Raleigh Chamber and Wake Tech were really effective at bringing Infosys to the area, and they also brought us into the conversation very early,” McGurring said. “We also partnered with them in the background on MetLife.”