University-Industry Engagement Week

Drexel, Lockheed Martin expand partnership with STEM co-op, incubator

By David Schwartz
Published: May 10th, 2022

A detailed article on the unique STEM co-op program offered via the Drexel-Lockheed Martin partnership appears in the April  issue of University-Industry Engagement Advisor. For subscription information, click here. 

Drexel University and Lockheed Martin have inked an MoU that expands their decades-long partnership with several new initiatives, including a new STEM co-op program and the fall opening of an on-campus technology and innovation incubator devoted to the company. In addition, Drexel will expand its tuition discount program for Lockheed Martin employees who are interested in professional development and upskilling opportunities.

“Drexel and Lockheed Martin have a very long-standing relationship,” says Anna Koulas, vice president of the Drexel Solutions Institute. The Institute is specifically geared toward providing business solutions to the university’s corporate and non-profit partners, including talent pipelines, customized training and development programs, and interdisciplinary research-based solutions. “We have hundreds of alumni working for the organization, as well as recent graduates who participated previously in co-ops with them that now find themselves fully employed at the company.”

In addition to earlier co-op programs, Drexel has offered custom training solutions, Koulas says. “The bigger opportunity we see is the synergy between product service and innovation, as well as agile education — which enables us to support, train and upskill the talent Lockheed Martin will need for their future workforce.” This focus, she adds, will center on the specific skills future employees will need. “It will enable us to think about curriculum, and how adaptive it will need to be as we prepare the workforce of the future while also focusing on equity in STEM fields.”

That emphasis on equity, she continues, has evolved over time. “We’re thinking about the future of STEM education and its reach, while also being hands-on in practicality. One thing driving Drexel University is that we want our partners to help our students understand how they can find a role in their organization, by providing a better understanding for our students of what it’s like to work for these firms.”

Koulas asserts that the new expansion, as well as the earlier partnership activities, feed into each other. For example, she points out, advanced training for Lockheed Martin employees “has created opportunities to have synergy around research.” Specifically, Lockheed Martin and Drexel faculty will be exploring areas of collaboration in materials science, advanced communication systems and 3D modeling.

Co-op programs have existed at Drexel for over 100 years, since 1919, notes Ian Sladen, vice president for cooperative education and career development. “One of the great things in establishing this new MoU is that it builds upon a decades-long relationship with Lockheed Martin through our co-op education program.

“We’ve had hundreds of students go through the program,” says Sladen, “But this is more STEM-focused.” In fact, he says, the program has grown from its origin in engineering to over 80 majors, with almost 6,000 students a year participating.

“Companies like Lockheed Martin understand the value [of the co-op program] and have utilized it in a couple of ways,” he continues. “Because the six-month cycles back up to one another, one ends on a Friday and the next one starts on Monday. So, continuity is built into their employment structure; a new crop of talent will be exposed, and some do return to Lockheed Martin. That’s where the co-op element of the new MoU we’ve signed with them comes into play.”

At Drexel, he explains, undergraduates can do a four-year program with one six-month co-op in the third year. The vast majority, however, take the other option — a five-year program. “Lockheed’s idea is that we can further enhance the co-op experience for students, and in turn enhance the talent pipeline,” Sladen shares. “Now, we’ve offered a rotational option, whereby a student does a co-op, then they can be invited back [a second time] or even to a third co-op, and learn different components of the company and utilize different skillsets.” This rotational option, he explains, is a brand-new component of the program.

“We’re thrilled; this enhances the priority of a long-standing partnership, and we hope it enhances Lockheed Martin’s talent pipeline,” says Sladen. “It’s really growing out our relationship and leveraging existing infrastructure through co-education.”

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Posted under: University-Industry Engagement Week