Belfast Telegraph

Allstate looking at India to help meet IT skills demand

By Symon Ross

Allstate has offered jobs to almost 200 people since the start of March, but may have to look outside of Northern Ireland to reach its target of 300 new employees by the summer.

The Belfast-based technology company's managing director, Bro McFerran, said the recruitment drive has come about because its US parent, Allstate Corp, has approved a variety of new IT projects.

The campaign has seen the firm advertise on billboards, radio, social networking sites and in newspapers, as well as holding open house recruitment days at its offices.

But it is also planning to send some of its HR team to India to look for talent because of a shortage of IT professionals here.

"We're having a reasonable degree of success, but would still like more experienced people. We have had success with IT graduates but it's hard to get more qualified people," said Mr McFerran.

"In some cases we are looking for particular experience profiles, and whether it is a case of those people not being prepared to leave their jobs or that they don't exist in the first place, we aren't seeing them in the quantity that we need them, so we still have a group of unfilled positions. You can keep bringing in graduates and training them up but at the end of the day you need experienced people to pass on their knowledge to the rookies."

Mr McFerran said that the firm is looking for a broad spectrum of skills, from software architects to testers, and has only a short space of time to recruit them.

"From a business perspective, we have a window of opportunity here that is passing us by. If we're not able to fill those opportunities with the right sorts of experience there's a good chance they will pass us by and not only does Allstate NI miss the opportunity but Northern Ireland misses the opportunity," he said.

"If we are not in the position to provide the right sorts of skills, their next stopping point would be one of the tier one vendors in India, such as Infosys or Tata or those sorts of organisations."

Mr McFerran said the US insurance giant had chosen its Northern Ireland operations because they can typically deliver a project 30% or 40% cheaper than they can in the US.

Allstate NI, which has offices in Belfast, Londonderry and Strabane, has grown rapidly in the past 10 years and currently has around 1700 employees.

Its managing director said there is an appetite for further expansion.

"We need to keep getting the message out there that we're looking for people, that we're a solid employer and that we've got lots of opportunities," he said.

"If we can get the right sort of people, 300 is not the number we'll finish on, it will be north of that.

"We see ourselves continuing to grow fairly rapidly between now and the summer, but we see it continuing beyond that as well."