Activision Blizzard has launched today its first-of-its-kind, groundbreaking talent training program called Level Up U. This immersive program prepares non-industry professionals and develops industry professionals to become full-time game developers. The program launches at a time when the industry’s demand for engineering talent outpaces the available qualified professionals with game development experience and the necessary job requirements.
“Talent and diversity have always been critical to our success. The rapid growth of the industry, including our franchises, has made it clear that we need to find new ways to attract and grow talent. This is the first of many Level Up U programs, and our plan is to expand to other skill areas such as art and animation. I’m incredibly excited about the potential of Level Up U,” said Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick.
Through a combination of on-site and virtual training, Level Up U is a 12-week program that prepares and develops professionals for engineering positions at Activision and Blizzard. The first class is made up of 104 participants, including external candidates as well as current employees, interested in upleveling their engineering expertise or switching to engineering from other backgrounds. After a rigorous application process, they come to Activision Blizzard with a diverse set of skills from a wide variety of industries including medicine, finance, and aerospace.
Level Up U is Activision Blizzard’s first major program funded through the $250 million investment announced last October to accelerate opportunities in gaming and technology for under-represented communities. As a result of recruiting for a broader set of skills, experiences, and capabilities, they were able to attract a diverse class, with 40 per cent of the class representing underrepresented ethnic groups and 45 per cent women and non-binary participants.
“We looked at a broader set of skills, experiences, and capabilities that we believe matter most to an employee’s success at Activision Blizzard and revisited where those skills exist in the market. We hope this will lead to greater talent mobility both within Activision Blizzard and in the games industry,” said Activision Blizzard chief people officer Julie Hodges.
The program is led by Tad Leckman, Dean of Level Up U and a twenty-year learning and development veteran. He has created training programs for artists, designers, writers, and engineers at Industrial Light and Magic, Blizzard Entertainment, Riot Games and Lucasfilm Animation. In addition to his work in the entertainment industry, he has taught at various universities including the University of California Santa Cruz.
Leckman, in partnership with internal learning teams, game engineers, and external partners, created a curriculum that provides participants with the technical skills required of the job, an understanding of game development fundamentals, and important skills for working as part of a team, including problem-solving, communications, adaptability, and inclusion. Participants will have the opportunity to integrate their skills and apply their coursework by working on a two-week, hands-on project using one of Activision Blizzard’s robust game engines to make a unique, playable game mode. Each week, the program will include discussions and insight from game developers across multiple Activision Blizzard studios, and exposure to the company’s leadership through formal and informal community-building events.
Every candidate joins Level Up U as a full-time employee. Upon successful completion of the program, participants will continue to be coached and mentored by employees as they integrate into roles at Activision Blizzard that fit their individual skills.