Cognosante’s University Engagement program provides students with meaningful work experiences and the opportunity to prepare for successful GovCon careers. The program consists of two unique partnerships: an alliance with women’s colleges and a separate alliance with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HCBUs).
Ebony Holmes, Vice President of Human Resources and University Engagement program sponsor, shares her perspectives on how these programs remove barriers and offer growth opportunities to early career professionals.
Tell us about the Cognosante Women in STEM Alliance.
Cognosante is a technology company founded by a woman of color, so when we began developing our University Engagement program, it was natural to look at opportunities to address gender bias in technology and business.
The Women in STEM Alliance program, now in its second year, is modeled after our successful HCBU Partner Alliance. Both programs were developed in close collaboration with founding partner institutions – in this case, Hollins University and Sweet Briar College. Our objective is to foster the professional and personal development needed to pursue GovCon careers in information technology and business.
We specifically chose to partner with Hollins University and Sweet Briar College because both women-only institutions share a similar mission and values with Cognosante. Both are also located in Virginia within 3 hours of our headquarters, facilitating a more immersive work experience.
Like Cognosante’s HBCU Partner Alliance, the Women in STEM Alliance builds upon the existing pillars of Cognosante’s University Programs platform:
- a 10-week paid Summer College Analyst Program, which assigns students with managers and departments aligned to their academic goals;
- a semester-long, paid Scholars Program, in which students can earn college credits while working full-time at a Cognosante office;
- and the Cognosante Campus Connection, a series of on-campus seminars, speaking engagements, and mentoring.
As part of the program, Cognosante customizes the experience, addressing known challenges for women in the workforce, specifically securing opportunities, gaining access, and developing leadership skills.
Mentoring is an important aspect of the program. How do female leaders at Cognosante support the development of a new generation of technologists and business professionals?
All participants in the Women in STEM Partner Alliance receive a mentor. This type of support is critical because women pursuing fields in STEM not only have to break into a male-dominated field, but also navigate the situations that will arise within it.
Women in senior roles across the organization have experienced similar challenges and are willing to share their insights through one-on-one mentoring and panel discussions sponsored by our Employee Resource Group for women in technology.
Support isn’t limited to our interns or fall scholars. Through Cognosante on Campus, female leaders participate in on-campus speaking engagements and workshops to help students craft resumes, network, and learn other skills that are essential for navigating the current job market.
What are some examples of certifications and training received by participants?
Every participating student leaves Cognosante Six Sigma-certified. In addition, all have access to our learning platform, which offers 12,000+ courses, additional mentoring opportunities, over 29,000 books, podcasts, and video topics ranging from STEM-related subject matter to leadership and development. Participants have pursued and received Amazon Web Services and Java certifications and completed hundreds of hours in training related to their field of study.
Students also complete career readiness workshops and “power skills” seminars which focus on key attributes needed once they enter the workforce.
What else is unique about the program?
Every organization benefits from having employees with a range of backgrounds and perspectives. Mixing early career professionals with established experts fosters innovative thinking and creates career development and mentoring opportunities for both. Participants in the Women in STEM program have also offered us crucial perspective on how this generation of job seekers perceives our company culture. We’ve been able to use many of these suggestions to shape how we will move forward in a hybrid environment, specifically regarding women in the workforce (i.e., flexibility, mental wellness, and advancement).
The program is now entering its second year but has already produced significant results. Tell us about that.
The Women in STEM program has transformed the company as well as the participants. The percentage of female interns has grown 110% per year, on average, since 2020, with the largest increase in the first year of the program.
It’s amazing to see how the women in the program have applied their academic learnings to meaningful work projects, developed critical leadership and professional skills while also offering us their unique and diverse viewpoints in our corporate environment.
Learn more about how we’re preparing students for successful careers in the GovCon industry.