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Diversity in Action

BAE Systems: 'tremendous growth' and student employment programs

The defense and aerospace company is increasing its college hiring, and participating in a pilot minority engineering program spearheaded by Penn State

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Joe Furino: building networks with minority organizations.

Joe Furino: building networks with minority organizations.

Over the last several years BAE Systems has steadily increased the number of new college graduate hires. The company anticipates hiring more than 300 in 2006, says Joe Furino, university relations manager. That's about 10 percent of the total 2006 hiring for professional-level positions at the company, he adds.

Four years ago BAE Systems had about 22,000 U.S. employees. Today that number has jumped to 36,000. "We've had growth, which supports more hiring of new grads, but at the same time we've been putting more emphasis on co-op and internship positions to feed full-time opportunities," Furino says.

BAE Systems is a transatlantic defense and aerospace company, delivering a full range of products and services for air, land and naval forces, as well as advanced electronics, information technology solutions and customer support services. It has a large presence in the Washington, DC and New York metro areas, southern New Hampshire and southern California, plus other facilities and locations in thirty states.

The company hires everything from aerospace engineers to systems engineers, optical engineers and physics majors. About two-thirds of the open technical positions are filled by computer science, computer engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and IT and MIS majors.

BAE Systems recruits by targeting specific "corporate focus" schools, as well as historically black colleges and universities like Howard, Morgan State, Hampton and North Carolina A&T.; Individual business units recruit through their own lists of universities. In all, BAE Systems visits fifty to sixty schools a year, getting roughly 70 percent of new hires from about half of them, Furino says. Students can also visit the company website to apply on their own.

The company has a robust employee referral program, and nurtures strong, active connections with diversity societies. It attends regional and national conferences of SHPE, SWE and NSBE, and is on the corporate councils for all three.

When Furino joined BAE Systems four years ago, the company was most concerned with getting its name out to these societies and supporting their programs financially.

"Now we're ready to take the next step, which is to build a network that can facilitate relationships. Now that we've been out there semester after semester and year after year, they know who we are. We want to put the appropriate people in place to help sustain those relationships long-term," he says.

BAE Systems also provides support, ranging from scholarships to funding for awards banquets, to diverse student organizations on campus. And it has assisted some of the organizations in their outreach efforts to middle and high schools.

"When we sponsor a student organization on campus, we often look at its plan for the year and earmark funds for its programs," Furino says. "We're helping the industry in the long run by working with these organizations, because they will provide a pipeline to the minority populations that are going to be in greater demand."

Interns and co-ops are extremely important to BAE Systems' overall hiring strategy, Furino says. During the past two years it has brought in more than 200 students, mostly interns. The company is increasing its emphasis on internship and co-op programs as an early employee identification tool.

One advantage is the ability to start the security clearance process earlier, he adds. The company requires U.S. citizenship for most technical positions, although businesses that work on commercial products not affected by U.S. security requirements can hire people who are permanent residents but not U.S. citizens.

Individual businesses determine their own hiring needs for each summer. Historically the Nashua, NH facilities have hired the most interns, but other locations are beginning to use more and more internships as part of their college hiring strategies, Furino notes.

BAE Systems is participating in Engineering Mentoring for Excellence, a pilot minority multicultural engineering program offered by Penn State (State College, PA). Participating companies provide Penn State with profiles of their internship opportunities, and guarantee placement to the program's participants. Penn State screens and interviews applicants and then puts qualified students through a series of workshops on professional development and leadership before they start their internships. BAE Systems' unit in Reston, VA will be the first participant in the program this summer. "It's going to be a good opportunity for us," Furino says.

There is plenty of support to help new full-time hires adjust to their jobs. BAE Systems has employee activity committees that support diversity, as well as formal rotation programs like its Engineering Leadership Development Program (ELDP). The ELDP is "very structured with a lot of mentoring," Furino says.

He adds that individual business units have a lot of flexibility in the type of employee support programs that they offer. "We give some guidance, but we don't dictate a one-size-fits-all program," he says.


Alliant Energy

Headquarters: Rockville, MD (U.S.)
Employees: 36,000 (U.S.)
Revenues: $10 billion
Business: Transatlantic defense and aerospace company
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