A two-year-old partnership between GE Digital and the University of New Orleans has proven to be a career-transforming educational experience for dozens of the University’s computer science students.
The Software Engineering Apprenticeship Program, also called SWEAP, was formed in 2014 to provide UNO computer science students the ability to build invaluable professional experience before they graduate.
To date, SWEAP has yielded prolific results: Twenty-four participating students have been hired on as full-time employees at GE Digital so far—and the program is continuing to grow.
“SWEAP transformed my career trajectory and opened up countless opportunities for technical and professional growth,” said Allison Luzader, a GE Digital software engineer and SWEAP graduate.
Students have the unique opportunity of being mentored by veteran software engineers, and receive onsite technical training at the GE Tech Center in downtown New Orleans, where the students work as paid part-time software developers, earning the equivalent hourly pay of a junior-level position.
“During my internship, I was given many opportunities to learn from experts at the digital hub through mentorship, training and opportunities to work on real projects that matter,” Luzader said. “My transition from part-time intern to full-time employee was incredibly smooth. The skills I gained as part of the SWEAP program enabled me to hit the ground running as a full-time GE employee, and add value to the business on day one.”
SWEAP is designed to equip students with the necessary technical and social skills required for many entry-level developer positions.
“SWEAP is one of our best pipelines for early-career talent at GE Digital in New Orleans,” said Kevin Dawson, GE Digital New Orleans site leader and vice president of program management. “The quality of students from UNO is exceptional, and I believe they are the future leaders of GE and GE Digital. ‘SWEAPers’ are always among our most highly recruited technical talent at GE Digital New Orleans, and we hope to grow the program in 2017.”
Another nine students currently in SWEAP are expected to graduate in May and are also anticipating job offers, said Mahdi Abdelguerfi, professor and chair of the UNO Department of Computer Science.
"We are thrilled by the results that we've seen from the SWEAP program, and the department is fully committed in continuing its work with GE, and our other industry partners, to build upon this successful model," Abdelguerfi said.
The SWEAP program is set to expand in 2017, with 15 UNO computer science students expected to join this summer. Since the program launched in 2014, one in every four UNO computer science students among junior and senior levels have had an opportunity to participate, though GE recruits as early as sophomore level.
Leaders at GE Digital and UNO say they are heavily invested in the success of this program. GE Digital’s Dustin Gaspard, a full time technical development leader, oversees the SWEAP students at GE, while UNO’s Ted Holmberg serves as the full-time industry liaison for the computer science department to foster and strengthen relationships among the professional community.