One of the biggest challenges facing technology companies right now is the need to acquire and retain top talent. With many graduates leaving Illinois and headed for the coasts, companies are finding it harder and harder to fill positions and ultimately impact the economic growth across the state and the Midwest.

The Illinois Technology Association has partnered with leading technology companies, such as their presenting sponsor BigMachines and supporting sponsors, grubHub.com, Allscripts and centro, to create the ITA Fall Challenge to identify and retain the top technology talent from universities in Illinois.

The ITA Fall Challenge is a two-pronged attack that will educate students on the opportunities available in the Illinois tech industry, and give them a chance to compete for a cash prize and an opportunity to work with a sponsoring company.

Dorothy Radke, Marketing and Communications for ITA, said a major function of the Fall Challenge is to bring awareness to college students about the Illinois tech industry. One of the main reasons the state isn’t retaining talent is because students aren’t aware of the opportunities.

“Some students we spoke to at the University of Illinois were not aware of the company Groupon,” Radke said.

The ITA will participate in the fall career fairs of seven universities in 2010, including the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, DePaul University, University of Chicago, Northern Illinois University, and University of Illinois at Chicago.  During the career fair, they will educate students on the thriving local technology industry, gather resumes and contact information and invite them to take the Fall Challenge.

The Challenge itself includes an algorithm problem which is designed to test their talent, and some general knowledge questions.  The finalists from each university will be invited to take the ITA Final Challenge, consisting of an increasingly difficult algorithm and quiz, with the winner receiving the $5,000
cash prize and the opportunity to work for a sponsoring company on a project basis. Final Challenge problem writers include Mike Evans, from GrubHub.com, John Barnes, of Model Metrics, Joe Jablonski, of Acumence and WeGather.com and George Kondiles, of Acumence.

All resumes will be professionally reviewed by Ryan Pollock of Objective Paradigm, and Chris Morgan, professional recruiter.  ITA will match the resumes collected with the Fall Challenge test results, creating a snapshot of each students skill level.  Sponsoring companies will gain access to this pre-filtered information, providing each firm with a database of students for positions.

“The ITA is committed to growing the Illinois technology industry. Helping our member companies grow by creating a conduit of talent isjust one way the ITA supports this dynamic industry,” said Fred Hoch, President ITA.  “We wake up everyday and work to grow companies by driving collaboration, being a strategic development arm for our members, producing 180 events and roundtables on key business topics, providing one-on-one consulting, and much more.”

This week the ITA Fall Challenge will visit University of Illinois at Chicago on Wednesday, the 27th and Northern Illinois University on Thursday, the 28th.

The Final Challenge reception will be held on November 18th at the IBM Innovation Center.  Finalists, sponsoring companies, and invited guests will have a chance to meet and network with the finalists. During the Final Challenge School2Life will facilitate some training, as well as host a panel discussion with the students, with the leaders of some of our sponsoring companies, to discuss the topic ‘what I wish I would have known’ when graduating from college, from company leader perspectives.


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