Ironhack Shaping the Workforce of the FutureBy Andrea Villar | Thu, 04/15/2021 - 05:00
Q: How is Ironhack taking action to close the IT talent gap in Mexico?
A: Ironhack was created to bridge the digital talent gap. The company was born in Spain during the economic crisis that started in 2008. At that time, there were not enough jobs for recent graduates but at the same time there were large companies or startups looking for more technological profiles. We later started to see this phenomenon in other countries like Mexico.
At Ironhack, we have four divisions: web development, UX/UI design, data analytics and cybersecurity. The latter is the most recent addition to our courses and a much-needed one at the moment. In 2020, the use of digital products increased, just as the rate of cyberattacks. Our goal is to be able to prepare professionals in a short period of time through intensive programs. We do not compete with universities. Rather, we prepare recent graduates or professionals in specific skills that companies need today.
Our training is complementary to any career. We have had students who were nurses, nutritionists and even naval engineers. People looking for entrepreneurship also need a technological foundation. At Ironhack, we know that the economic development of a country is always linked to technological development. The more skilled professionals we have, the more companies will hire their talent in Mexico, which has a positive economic impact.
Q: What strategies does Ironhack have for large companies looking to train their staff in these areas?
A: Ironhack has received several rounds of investment over time. Earlier this year, we raised US$20 million. That funding is allocated to reskilling and upskilling companies. There are businesses that already had a digital track record that rose exponentially during the pandemic and that were left with two options: look outside for talent or develop internal talent in the areas that required more manpower. This is a worldwide trend.
Depending on the company, we can adapt our programs to their needs. Likewise, we have two teaching formats: a part-time modality so people can study without leaving their jobs and the full-time modality, which is nine weeks of intensive learning. In the past, companies used to send two or three employees for part-time training. Now, they send large groups to be trained in the intensive course.
Developing in-house talent is key. We tell companies that anyone in any position and in any area can develop technology skills. This is not only a great benefit for the employee not to lose their job, but it is also a great professional advancement that will boost engagement with the company.
Q: Besides the migration to remote education, how has the pandemic impacted Ironhack’s business model?
A: For many years, the only way to study at Ironhack was to attend one of our nine campuses. When the pandemic hit, we realized that remote learning worked very well. We decided to formalize the launch of our tenth campus: a virtual one. At some point in 2020, some campuses in Europe reverted to face-to-face classes but the virtual modality continued. This has allowed us to reach more corners of the country and Latin America.
Q: Ironhack has presence in eight countries. What are the particular differences and challenges you have encountered in Mexico?
A: The main challenge and at the same time advantage is that Mexico is always a bit behind regarding technology trends. While we are thinking about opening a new UX/UI design course, the market here is still thinking about hiring graphic designers, for example. The advantage is that we can understand these trends from our experience in other campuses and replicate their good practices. It is a way to see the future and anticipate trends. The courses are already approved and academically tested and we understand the market better before bringing them here.
In Mexico, the investment culture is also heavily influential. In a pandemic, there are people in other countries who use their security funds to switch careers; they invest in education. In Mexico, that does not happen. Investment alone is not in our culture and investment in education even less.
Q: What actions does Ironhack take to attract female talent?
A: We have a global initiative that focuses on partnering with other companies or foundations to reach out to communities. Women represent 30 percent of our student base, which is well below the 50 percent that I would ideally like to see. What we do at Ironhack is form partnerships. We recently partnered with a global movement called Women in Tech, which makes global efforts in many cities and with which we organize intensive courses.
Role models will always be important. It is vital for women to know that such careers exist and that there are women studying and practicing them. The fact that more women are starting to consider this type of career also contributes to closing the pay gap. Even though it is smaller than in other industries, there is also a pay gap in tech. We are now linking this to our prices. If a woman currently earns less, her product must cost less. Right now, for example, we have certain discounts for certain communities and the discount for women is double. Accessibility is just one of the first steps for women to start taking a bigger role in this industry.
On the other hand, during our courses we have an important empowerment focus. For years, the female dropout rate has been higher than the male rate. When we analyzed why, we found no external factors. Then we deduced that it was this lack of role models. That said, we give more attention and support to women and we have seen incredible results with women being top of their classes.
Within Ironhack, 50 percent of the campus managers are women. You cannot say one thing and do another, so internally we also seek to maintain a gender balance.
Ironhack, founded in 2013, is an international tech and design school present in eight countries. In Mexico, it offers courses on web development, UX/UI design, data analytics and cybersecurity