The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the demand for new IT workers will grow 13% by 2026, that’s faster than the average for all jobs, making recruitment become a top-of-mind concern for employers.
To source workers, tech companies across the U.S. are turning to alternative recruitment strategies, one of them being job shadow programs for students. These programs provide opportunities to students at both the high school and collegiate level to experience what it’s like to work in the industry. The end goal being that if they enjoy their time at your company they might consider a future there.
Unfortunately, it’s easy to run a job shadow program incorrectly. An ill-run program has the potential to turn off potential candidates from your company — but a bad experience can do even more damage. Job shadowing is often students’ first exposure to a professional tech environment and a particularly negative time could deter them from pursuing a tech career in general.
To ensure that your job shadow program is only a positive experience for future staffers, consider these metrics as markers of success:
Show your diversity
The tech industry struggles with diversity. With that in mind, it’s important that job shadow programs reflect the diversity and uniqueness of the students shadowing. Attendees benefit most from programs that are inclusive, where they see their gender, age, race, socio-economic status and even sexuality reflected — and feel supported in any way they choose to identify themselves.
However, tech companies don’t always have a ton of diversity to showcase. So it can be helpful to look outside of a specific team to help connect program participants with employees who may have similar backgrounds or experiences. Not only does a meaningful, relatable connection strengthen the value of the program, but pairing attendees with employees across the organization demonstrates that a career in tech is not homogenous. Roles at tech companies encompass many facets of business, including customer success and product management.
Make it real
While it may be tempting — and sometimes easier — to organize workshops and presentations for the students, it’s often more beneficial to offer job shadowers a realistic day-in-the-life experience. This might be the first time attendees step foot inside a professional office, so it’s critical that they understand the reality of what that entails. Panels and large group events have their place and are beneficial as educational tools, but your organization can do these offsite and at the school as well.
When it comes down to shadowing a specific role, make sure that the tasks aren’t laser focused. It’s possible that someone from engineering might spend a portion of their day putting out a fire with specifics on a vendor invoice. While this is a realistic occurrence of the job, it’s not regularly recurring and does not provide a complete picture of what the role emcompasses. As a result, the student could leave with a bad impression of the career as a whole.
To combat both unrealistic or overly contrived programs, schedule job shadowers on days when there are exciting meetings or projects for the students to observe. There’s no need to bend over backwards to find something interesting to fill time, but if it’s already on the schedule try to find an overlap where it can add value to the program.
Plan it well
Just as the attendees are unfamiliar with a professional office, so too might your employees be unfamiliar interacting with students. To prevent awkwardness or lulls in the day, have a younger staff member, close in age to the attendees, look over the program. They may be able to detect areas that are unnecessary, won’t translate well or that you can eliminate entirely.
It’s also important to coach or train shadowed employees and those giving presentations during the program. Coaching sessions can revolve around public speaking tips and ways to explain technical processes to those with minimal understanding of the subject.
As your job shadow program grows and matures, remember that continual improvement hinges on valuable feedback. Make it a point to open communication channels with the students after the program, in the form of email surveys or a phone call with the school leaders.
Job shadowing can prove to be a mutually beneficial recruitment tactic for the tech industry. Not only do these programs draw in future candidates and foster interest and passion in STEM careers. But, they can also serve as retention and engagement tools, reminding employees of their value to the organization, the industry and to their future co-workers.