Lockheed Martin, UCF Celebrates 40 Years of University Work Experience Program that has helped shape the local workforce

One conversation can change the course of a life. For Loriann Kaaihue ’08 ’09MBA, there were two.

In the early 2000s, the mother of two decided to return to college to complete a bachelor’s degree in business administration. She had been a stay-at-home mom for about six years and was ready to re-enter the workforce. As she neared graduation, a professor turned mentor had a candid conversation with her about her future.

“Knowing that I was a woman in her mid-thirties trying to re-enter the workforce, she suggested that I earn my master’s degree to help me stand out,” says Kaaihue, who the same night spoke to her. husband of how they could make it work. They hired a babysitter for their children so that she could continue her education full time.

Then came the second life-changing conversation. A classmate in UCF’s MBA program was an employee of Lockheed Martin and she spoke to Kaaihue about the College Work Experience (CWEP) program which allows students to work part-time at Lockheed Martin. The opportunity was unique for UCF students, thanks to a strong partnership and close proximity between the organizations.

Kaaihue was looking for internships and soon after this conversation she applied for career services at UCF. It didn’t take long for Kaaihue to be invited to Lockheed Martin for an interview, and before she even left the parking lot to go home, she was called in with an offer to become CWEP in program funding.

Twelve years later, Kaaihue is still an employee of Lockheed Martin. The management noticed her hard work and skills, and they felt valued by the team and the corporate culture. She had a full-time offer waiting for her after graduating from UCF.

Kaaihue’s story is just one of the countless others in the CWEP program, which celebrates its 40e anniversary this year. The program has grown exponentially, with Lockheed Martin providing paid work experience to approximately 650 students each year. On average, 60% of them are offered full-time jobs. And despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the program continued to offer a significant number of remote CWEP positions.

The program is a shining example of a win-win situation – students earn good pay and a good workforce experience in one of America’s most recognized companies, and Lockheed Martin has a talent pipeline from many engineering and business related disciplines. directly into its workforce.

“We believe that increasing opportunities for students and developing their talents through hands-on work experiences positions them for success. “- Frank St. John ’87 ’91MS, COO of Lockheed Martin

“We believe that increasing opportunities for students and developing their talents through hands-on work experiences enables them to be successful,” says Frank St. John ’87 ’91MS, COO of Lockheed Martin and graduate of the College Work Experience Program. “I personally know how valuable and educational the CWEP is, and I am honored to be a part of our 40 year partnership with UCF. “

The program has been so successful that Lockheed Martin is now launching a similar program at the University of Texas at Arlington.

Treated as part of the team

Kaaihue says what emerges from the CWEP program is that she was not treated as a grumbling intern tasked with fetching coffee or filing documents; she felt like part of the team.

Christie Adkins ’01 ’03MBA, a senior finance executive at Lockheed Martin who now works with Kaaihue, remembers how her manager treated her when she was CWEP in 2000. As a part-time employee with real responsibilities, Adkins created rapport Weekly monetary reports detailing how much had been spent on the program that week, including labor and staff, as well as quarterly affordability scans.

“That’s the mindset I now apply to my CWEPs,” says Adkins, who has eight to nine students working in his department each year. They help budget for new projects and create proposals for winning new business.

This mentality is pervasive. Senior Systems Engineer José Castillo ’12 ’19MS developed algorithms as a CWEP intern who collected and evaluated Lockheed Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) flight data. He continued to use these same skills when he became a full-time employee, developing and testing software for sniper targeting pods that are used on more than 10 fighter jets, including the F-16. and the F-18.

Recognizing how lucky he was to have this real world experience as a student, he now takes it upon himself to champion the CWEP program by visiting the campus to recruit students and help mentor the 30 to 60 CWEP students his department has at all times. time.

“The CWEP has become my passion project,” he says.

A one-year interview

Adkins’ college journey at UCF began as a major in mathematics. Working with numbers was definitely her strong suit, but she wasn’t quite sure how to translate it into a career she loved.

“The CWEP showed me what a financial analyst does. It’s analytic planning, but there’s a lot more creativity than any other opportunity I’ve found, ”says Adkins.

She found what she was looking for and has since held various positions in finance since hiring full-time at Lockheed Martin in 2001. It’s thanks to the heads of the CWEP who ensure that students, like Adkins at the time. , are exposed to as much as possible during the program. It’s an opportunity for students to learn what they are passionate about, while managers also learn which students are the right candidates for potential full-time employment.

Christine Hawkins, a current CWEP student and second year computer science student, was grateful for the opportunity. Hired as a freshman last year, she is now creating a software script that will calculate the projected amount of product that a line of business is expected to create in any given week – a tool that should be used. by numerous projects throughout the company.

In addition to software development, she also learned production, finance and coding.

“It gives me the opportunity to see what I really want to do,” says Hawkins. She intends to stay in the CWEP program until graduation.

Well-paying jobs, in school and beyond

Castillo recalls an elated feeling after securing a spot on the CWEP program. Previously, he had served at Applebee to pay his college bills.

“I was just pinching myself,” he said. “I walked with pride.”

While not all internships are paid – some offer academic credit – CWEP students earn between $ 11.78 and $ 20.27 per hour for up to 25 hours of work per week, or up to 40. hours per week during the summer.

In the Central Florida region alone, Lockheed Martin employs approximately 8,000 workers and, over the next 15 years, intends to hire approximately 50,000 new STEM professionals across the company. This job security is assured for students like Gio Dantes, who began his college career after five years of service in the US Navy. Stable job security and competitive wages is something he looks forward to as he continues to re-acclimate to civilian life.

Dantes joined the Navy at age 19 and served as an aircraft engine mechanic. It was around this time that he discovered his project management skills, which he regularly uses as a program planner as a CWEP. He makes sure that all the business and engineering functions of the product lines he works on stay on track. In January, he will begin a full-time position at Lockheed Martin as a program planner after earning a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from UCF.

“It’s a great feeling to have a secure job,” says Dantes. “I worked my best and tried to make the most of my time in this program. I am very grateful to UCF and Lockheed for having it.

Dantès’ story is exactly what this partnership hoped to accomplish when it started 40 years ago.

“It’s pretty rare that we have a CWEP that we’re not looking to hire full time,” Kaaihue says. “I think that is also a testament to UCF and the quality of the students they bring to the table.”

Maria D. Ervin