Georgia Southern University alumnus Stacey Roach knows the struggle students face when looking to gain professional experience while in college. As Chief Operating Officer of IT company InventureIT, he also knows the difficulty of bringing innovative technology and ideas to the professional world.
In an effort to combat both of these problems, Roach helped create Southern Automated Logistics & Technology (SALT), an innovative, technology-focused organization based in Savannah that partners with industry and academia to bring bleeding-edge technology ideas to market.
To create a link to academia, SALT started an apprenticeship program that offers college computer science and IT students access to mentors and the ability to learn about and solve real-world software development problems for clients.
“The development and software industry is under-resourced and in major demand, which puts inexperienced people in jobs that require significant experience,” Roach said. “We should be able to find a way to embrace what we do at SALT, bring our expertise into the regions we live and work, and also empower the next generation to build their careers here in tandem with Georgia Southern where we can make a large regional impact.”
SALT partners with Georgia Southern’s Office of Career and Professional Development (OCPD) to help identify potential program candidates from the Allen E. Paulson College of Engineering and Computing through OCPD’s career management system Handshake. Students are selected for the paid apprenticeship after an extensive interview process and receive structural training, hands-on learning and work on specific projects for customers.
Junior computer science major Gracie Smith serves as SALT apprentice team lead, where she leads eight current or recently graduated Georgia Southern students at the Business Innovation Group City Center hub in downtown Statesboro. She said SALT provides her with both technical and professional experience.
“I continue to learn the processes of software development all while better strengthening my time management, communication and organizational skills,” Smith said. “This experience is a pivotal moment for me as I am granted the opportunity to pursue my passion for program development.”
SALT student apprentices also have many opportunities to build relationships that can further their ability to secure a full time position after graduation, whether within SALT or an organization SALT has worked with.
SALT apprentice and recent Georgia Southern graduate Dimitry Bakalov said the mentorship and the team aspect of SALT gives him a competitive edge in the job search.
“The agile methodology that SALT is practicing is a great tool to let everyone in the team get involved in the developing process,” Bakalov said. “Everyone has an opportunity to be a part of every aspect of the developing job, which is very valuable on the market. I believe that the experience I have gained while working for SALT is the key major component of my resume and the key skill in my skill set.”
Roach said SALT is working to find a location to call home for Georgia Southern students in Savannah, as well as looking for more companies to work with.
“The next big step for us is to start identifying other partners and other companies that maybe have technology projects that they would like to pursue with SALT,” he said. “As more companies begin a relationship with SALT, more post-graduation opportunities will become available to computer science majors involved in the program.”