IFS invests in Sri Lanka’s future with education initiatives
IFS, the global enterprise applications company, started working in Sri Lanka in 1997 in order to boost its research and development operations. Since recruiting 26 graduates in the first year, its headcount in Sri Lanka increased to 635 in 2007. A number of community initiatives have supported this growth, including investing in university education.
In 1997, IFS was growing rapidly and needed to expand its operations and technical resource—particularly in the area of research and development—and looked outside of Europe and the US to find the quantity and quality of talent necessary to underpin this growth.
Sri Lanka offered clear benefits as a base, partly because it was close to IFS’ expanding operations in Asia, but primarily—in contrast to India—it offered it the opportunity to establish a strong recruitment presence in a smaller community. This way IFS was able to attract the top talent from quality state and private universities, in particular graduate software engineers who, following a Sri Lankan education, have similar skill sets to a British- or Swedish-educated candidate.
IFS currently recruits from University of Colombo School of Computing, University of Colombo, University of Moratuwa, University of Kelaniya, University of Peradeniya, University of Ruhuna, Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology, Asia Pacific Institute of Information Technology and the Informatics Institute of Technology.
Many of the original batch of recruits are still with the company and IFS has benefited from very low turnover, high staff loyalty and access to a very high standard of graduates. It is also heavily involved in working with Sri Lankan universities. It takes on a large number of students for industrial placement, conducts mentorship programs, provides final year project ideas and supervision and is represented on faculty boards. IFS has also designed and conducts courses in the areas of Information Systems, Database Management, and Advanced Software Engineering at the University of Colombo.
In order to develop closer links to the communities around these universities, it developed a scholarship program, currently in its tenth year. The scholarship program has received as many as four thousand applicants in a single intake, and the chosen students have their education fees paid for, along with a living allowance. These students spend six months at an on-site course at IFS then split their time between university and working at IFS for the duration of the course. After that there is no bond or obligation to continue working at IFS, but more than 90% of the students remain with the company after completing the scholarship program. Through this program over 90 students have completed, or are in the process of completing their degrees.
“We chose to focus our CSR efforts on the area of education not only because we realized it would be a clear benefit to the community and economy in the long term, but also because it’s an area that IFS understands well. We also know it will provide us with an even larger pool of talent from the region in the future,” said Thomas Petersson, Head of Products and Marketing at IFS.
IFS expanded this CSR program following the Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004, which hit the western coast of Sri Lanka and is estimated to have killed over 50,000 people and displaced over 510,000. Following immediate donations from staff, partner organizations and customers, IFS set up a school-based investment program, as many GCSE and A-level students abandoned their studies due to losing their homes or because of new financial pressures on their families. IFS has provided support for their education by offering diploma courses in IT to students and teachers in affected areas. The courses have been conducted in collaboration with Ruhuna University and The Eastern University and so far over 400 such scholarships have been awarded.
“We saw how deeply affected the country was following the disaster, and wanted to support the communities which have supported us,” added Petersson. “A Swedish tradition is that workers receive a small Christmas gift from the company. We’re proud that many IFS workers now choose to donate this monetary value every year to the Sri Lankan education fund instead—it shows how important our link with Sri Lanka is to staff throughout the company.”
IFS is a public company (OMX STO: IFS) founded in 1983 that develops, supplies, and implements IFS Applications™, a fully-integrated, component-based extended ERP suite built on SOA technology. The company has more than 2,000 customers in more than 50 countries and focuses on seven main industries: aerospace & defense, utilities & telecom, manufacturing, process industries, automotive, retail & wholesale distribution, and construction contracting & service management. IFS has 2,700 employees and net revenue in 2008 was SKr 2.5 billion.