News

Local tech industry and PSU partner to train work-ready grads
Author: Julie Rutherford, Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science
Posted: June 4, 2015

Portland State University today announced two additions to the roster of companies participating in the university's signature software development internship program.

PSU/PDX Cooperative Education Program (PCEP), a selective two-year work experience opportunity, places high-achieving upper-division computer science students in paid internship positions to fill the needs of the local tech community. Participants typically rotate between three or four different companies over the course of two years, gaining industry experience in defined roles such as software development, quality assurance and developmental operations, or "devops."

Jama Software, a cloud-based collaborative solution for product definition, build and test, and NWEA, maker of educational assessment tools, join fourteen other participating organizations including Cambia Health Solutions, Viewpoint Construction Software, Con-way, Janrain, Jive Software, CDK Global, Thetus Corporation, Multnomah County, Elemental Technologies, Rentrak, Tripwire, WebMD, Webtrends, and Urban Airship.

"Our company has a strong desire to partner with local schools and PCEP's reputation make this program a natural fit," explains Jamey Miller, Vice President of Engineering at Jama. "The caliber of graduating PCEP participants we've seen in job interviews is remarkable. Not only are they are well-versed on different technologies, they also have a strong sense for the type of company they want to work for before they graduate. This makes for very attractive recruits."

Admission to PCEP is competitive. Students must maintain a 3.0 GPA or better and undergo a rigorous interview and selection process.

All participating companies are within walking distance or a short transit ride from the classroom making it possible for students to balance the approximately 20-hour a week commitment with eight to 12 credits of coursework.

A study released in April, by commercial real estate firm CBRE, found that Portland's pool of tech talent – an indicator of market demand – surged 28% between 2010 and 2013. Such hiring trends combined with the accessibility of PSU's downtown location have led PCEP to track in parallel with the Portland tech boom.

PCEP was established in 2012, at the urging of industry leaders. In its first year, six students were placed at three founding companies, Jive, Tripwire and Webtrends. Warren Harrison, chair of the PSU Computer Science Department, expects to place 35 interns at sixteen companies this spring.

"The support from the Portland Software Community for PCEP has been phenomenal," says Harrison. "Each member company invests many hours of executive time in supporting the direction, operation and functioning of the program, as well as in mentoring and aiding in the career growth of our interns."

Bruce Kenny, Vice President, Global Product Development at Viewpoint Construction Software, was a driving force behind the program's inception when he was an Executive Vice President at Webtrends.

"Our philosophy has always been students first, PSU second and industry third," explains Kenny, "I believe this approach has been wildly successful. Not only are we producing high-quality, work-ready personnel, but by and large they are staying in Portland. This spring we will see the second major wave of PCEP students get their degrees – and we all are fighting over them!"

More information about PCEP is available at www.pdx.edu/computer-science.