Tech Help Wanted

Tech Help Wanted

CGI is starting the hiring process for the first cohort of what is expected to be a 300-person operation in Knoxville.

by scott barker • March 29, 2021
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CGI Inc., the global information technology and business consulting firm that announced a new Knoxville operation last month, is already hiring locally.

The IT and business consulting firm plans to hire a mix of entry=level and experienced employees.
A company executive said in an interview last week that CGI hopes to bring at least 50 new employees on board before summer arrives, part of a plan to invest $27 million and hire up to 300 people in Knoxville over the next five years.

“It's a really good diversity of positions that we're launching, even within the first month,” said Will LaBar, vice president of consulting services for CGI Federal. CGI Federal is one of the Canadian firm’s subsidiaries that operates in the United States.

CGI picked Knoxville for its eighth “onshore IT delivery center” in the United States after a two-year search process. CGI uses its delivery center network to provide IT services, support and solutions to its U.S. clients, which include commercial entities in a wide variety of industries and government agencies.

The term “onshore” is shorthand for the technology industry’s increasing reliance on North American workers, in a reversal of the decades-long trend of outsourcing overseas.  

CGI will hold a virtual job fair for its Knoxville center tomorrow. The event will be held 11 a.m.-2 p.m., and people can register to attend here.

Open positions include business analysts, software engineers and others, with the average salary approximately $68,000 a year. LaBar said about half the positions would be entry-level jobs for recent college graduates and the balance for more experienced workers.

CGI plans to work with the University of Tennessee, primarily through interdisciplinary programs in its Tickle College of Engineering and the Haslam College of Business, to funnel talent to its Knoxville operations. The effort will focus on advanced analytics, cybersecurity and emerging digital technologies.

“We're looking to have a very tight relationship with the university,” LaBar said. “It's a big part of what we want to build in the Knoxville community.”

Doug Lawyer, vice president of economic development for the Knoxville Chamber, said communities often have to wait a long time after a company announces plans to open before hiring employees. 

“CGI is doing exactly what they said they were going to do — hit the ground running,” he said.

“This company is looking for all kinds of talent, but the biggest chunk will be students coming out of UT,” Lawyer continued. “That gives us the opportunity to retain that talent.”

The company’s existing delivery centers are located in Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Virginia, Maine and Wisconsin. LaBar said Knoxville will be the largest city to host a CGI delivery center. 

“In addition to all of the things that typically make us excited about a center — high quality of life, access to talent, university partnerships — we think that there's going to be a really interesting business ecosystem in Knoxville … where we could be partnering with other businesses in Knoxville for services to our clients and or providing services to them directly,” LaBar said.

CGI is finalizing a lease for temporary office space in or near downtown. LaBar declined to identify the location for the temporary space or discuss a potential location for a more permanent office. 

UT President Randy Boyd said last month that “exciting announcements” about new projects at the UT Research Park at Cherokee Farm, across the Tennessee River from the main part of the Knoxville campus, could be coming soon.

“Being close to the urban core is important to us,” LaBar said. “We like to have offices that have some kind of reasonable proximity to where you can walk, live, eat, work, play, all that stuff. The other variable is connection to the university as well. So, if we could find a place that has both, that'd be great.”

CGI isn’t waiting to move into office space to get started in Knoxville, LaBar said. The firm’s new hires will work remotely until the space is acquired and the COVID-19 pandemic situation allows them to work together.

“We won't have a brick and mortar presence like an office that CGI people are coming in and out until the summer,” he said, adding that “everyone that we've hired will be on-boarded and working on our client teams, and they'll be doing it from home.”

CGI also plans to reach out to younger students in the STEM disciplines — science, technology, engineering and math.

“We have a very strong focus in CGI on STEM education,” he said, working with communities on coding camps and other STEM programming. 

“That's really focused specifically on demographics underrepresented in STEM,” LaBar said. “There's a big shortage of women, minorities and veterans in our field.”

He said CGI will find existing STEM organizations to find out how they can help.

“We're not trying to recreate the wheel,” LaBar said. “We're just looking to put our muscle behind what's happening in Knoxville to help with that. It's really important to us.”

UPDATE: This article has been updated with the correct name of the CGI Inc. subsidiary that will operate in Knoxville.