by Karen Kroll, Contributing Writer
A good many partners in the Microsoft Dynamics channel struggle to recruit college and graduate students. For starters, most partner firms have limited recruitment budgets. Few are household names, which can make it hard to capture students’ interest. Finally, many potential recruits lack an understanding of the many careers available in the channel: they see themselves beginning their careers in Redmond, Washington, at Microsoft corporate headquarters.
To remedy this, the Microsoft Dynamics Academic Alliance has begun hosting what it’s calling “Campus Events” at colleges and universities worldwide.
As we reported in February, the demand for full-time Microsoft Dynamics CRM experts (as an example) was on the rise in partner firms, consultancies, and at end user companies. Newly-educated fresh eyes are finding work as stronger economic conditions and an evolving product have signaled more opportunities and changing job descriptions.
And those companies are willing to invest in full-time employees whose careers they nurture with training and education. “Management is more comfortable hiring full time and investing in their employees versus three years ago,” says Brian Ray, managing partner with DynamicsFocus, a provider of recruiting, staff augmentation and career development services.
As of mid-December, the plans for 2016 are to hold several Campus Events in the US, potentially five or six in Canada, and more in Europe. The goal is to “strategically locate” Campus Events near where partners are interested in hiring both interns and full-time employees.
“This is focused on helping partners connect more easily and quickly with students prepped for careers in Microsoft Dynamics,” says Katie Hasbargen, Ph.D., global program lead with the Microsoft Dynamics Academic Alliance.
The channel partners participating in the events typically live in the area or have traveled there, and have openings for interested students. They’ll present information on Microsoft, the Dynamics solutions, their own organizations and brands, and the industry in general. They’ll also talk about the types of roles they have available. The events also will include time for interactive discussions between the partner firms and students.
Partner firms also can use the events to let students know about the range of industries – from sports management to retailing to manufacturing, to name a few – with which they work. Few students realize the opportunities available within the channel to work with all sorts of companies, Hasbargen says.
Another point partners may emphasize is their investment in employee training, Hasbargen says. They also can describe a typical career path for, for instance, a college graduate brought on as a junior consultant.
To be sure, each event probably will take on a slightly different flavor. At the first one in the new series, which took place earlier in December at City University London, many of the students were computer science and engineering students. With this in mind, the partners talked about the technical interview process. They discussed how to prepare for an interview, the information to bring, and employers’ expectations.
By several measures, the initial event was successful. Not only did the Alliance fill all 60 available student attendee slots, but the discussions ran for about three hours, or about a half-hour longer than scheduled.
The focus will shift as events are held in different locations. “We talk with the career center and faculty to identify the best use of (everyone’s) time,” Hasbargen says. For instance, if a large number of students will come with business or marketing backgrounds, the speakers may concentrate on the skills needed for consulting roles, and the typical job responsibilities in consulting.
Every school with which Hasbargen and her team have talked has expressed interest in hosting an event, she says. “They’re interested in getting students placed in jobs,” she notes
The events will start with schools already teaching Dynamics, although the Alliance also is approaching schools that don’t use Dynamics in their curriculum.
Most students invited will be those near the end of their programs and looking for full-time work, but internships, and other opportunities will also be promoted when possible.
One likely reason the Campus Events have found such a receptive audience is the ease with which they can be hosted. The Alliance organizes them and covers any costs, such as facilities. Neither the schools, nor the students, nor the partners pay anything, and the Alliance has no plans to begin charging them. “We want to see if we can make an impact with a simple activity,” Hasbargen says. The only request of students: that they bring their résumés.
While the events are attracting interest, they won’t take the place of job fairs, Hasbargen says. Instead, the idea is to “open students’ eyes to the amazing opportunities available in the channel,” she says.
And although the success of the initial event at City University London was promising, the Alliance will keep tabs on the number of hires made that can be linked to an event. The goal is to check that they truly are connecting partners with students.
For Younger Students, an “Hour of Code”
The Campus Events not the only initiatives underway linking Microsoft with education. For instance, on December 10, Microsoft Canada joined the country’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains in hosting “An Hour of Code.” The idea was to engage high school and younger students in a Minecraft coding challenge to demonstrate the importance of computer science education. The “Hour of Code” is a global initiative, and the Ottawa event is part of Microsoft Canada’s larger Code Generation movement – a month long campaign (which ended December 13) aimed at inspiring Canadian youth to learn more about coding.
So, Microsoft is actively impressing upon younger students the importance of coding with real-world applications (typically fun ones like Minecraft and Star Wars games), and impressing upon older, career-oriented students the career possibilities open to them in the Dynamics partner channel.