Bossier Parish Community College and CSRA are partnering to build northwest Louisiana’s technology industry one student at a time. Through an ever-growing internship program, BPCC and the next generation tech company are giving IT program graduates on-the-job experience and then tapping those same students to help meet workforce demands.
“The real benefit is not having our students leave this area to find high paying jobs,” said Paul Spivey, project director for CSRA/LED at BPCC. “Which is good news for our economy and region, overall.”
CSRA partnered with Louisiana to create 800 professional technology careers by 2018. CSRA created their state-of-the-art Integrated Technology Center (ITC) facility to help solve the federal government’s most difficult technology challenges and combat the threat of cyber terrorism.
In 2014, BPCC was awarded a 10-year, $2.5 million grant through the State of Louisiana and Louisiana Economic Development where CSRA was identified as the corporate partner. BPCC has a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement (CEA) that provides funding for a project director, additional faculty, classroom materials/supplies, student vouchers, software subscriptions, professional development, and curriculum/program development.
“This partnership really allows us to go beyond the academics where we’re aligning our curriculum with employers needs and can dive deep into our programs so they meet what jobs are out there,” Spivey said.
The goal of the CEA is to increase the number of BPCC students who become employed in the IT field. As a result of the grant, students benefit from IT internships, enhanced curriculum, industry based certifications, facility tours, mock-interviews with industry partners, career fairs, orientations, resume and interviewing workshops, classroom guest speakers, and hands-on learning experiences.
Mimi Hedgecock, senior principal, external affairs for the Integrated Technology Center, said CSRA and BPCC’s close relationship is because of the college’s whole package — leadership, faculty, and students being produced.
“BPCC is constantly adapting to meet industry needs. It is doing what it needs to doing to be relevant not only right now, but five years from now.”
Spivey noted the internship portion has grown substantially, from one in 2014 to 30 this year. Hedgecock said CSRA has ended up hiring about 84 percent of past interns from their partners — BPCC, Louisiana Tech University, Northwestern State University.
Spivey explained that the internship encourages the students with a hands-on, real world experience. CSRA looks at the internship applicants through that lens as well.
“It’s the same as if we were interviewing for a job: we look at skill sets, talk to them, and find a fit,” Hedgecock said.
Spivey’s goal with finding students for the internship is to build a relationship with the students so he can assess their goals and work ethic.
“When a hiring manager says they need students, I want to be able to give recommendations, I want to be the one to vouch for them,” he said. “And they trust our opinions.”
Spivey said the program’s success really comes down to constant collaboration with an engaged partner in CSRA.
“There are a lot of factors to be successful: demand, a program that shows a successful pipeline to jobs, a focus on technology in the workplace,” he explained. “But when you have an institution in lock-step with employer, that removes a lot of barriers.”