A local tech consulting company has partnered with the University of Montana to train students specifically for jobs within the company, and has hired the entire first cohort.

Earlier this month, the Cognizant ATG Missoula Solutions Center held a graduation ceremony for its “All-In-Missoula” (AIM) technology consultant trainee program. All 26 students who went through the 12-week program at UM were subsequently hired by ATG, which now has 176 total employees in Montana.

“The public private collaboration on this was fantastic,” said Tom Stergios, senior vice president of strategy and corporate development. “It exceeded my expectations. We challenged our instructors and trainees and said, ‘Let’s get each of you successful, let’s get the whole team successful’ and we did. I’m so proud of the instructors.”

Stergios grew up in Missoula and founded the ATG Missoula Solutions Center and has focused on hiring University of Montana graduates. After Cognizant purchased the company earlier this year, the AIM program started as a way to help the company fulfill its expanding workforce needs and to provide UM students with a relatively quick career training program.

The students learn the Java computer programming language, Salesforce software and other technical terms to use on the job. Another cohort of trainees is currently in the program and Stergios said he’s “crossing his fingers” to hire as many of them as possible.

“They’ll be in a variety of roles,” he said of the first class. “Some will be more technical-focused, some will be more business-focused. Everything from project management to developers to quality assurance testers.”

The company offers what Stergios calls “very competitive” wages.

“We’re certainly exceeding the state and county average,” he said.

He said it was harder to tell whether the students or their families were happier at the May 1 graduation ceremony.

Seth Bodnar, the president of UM, spoke at both the graduation ceremony and the grand opening of Cognizant ATG’s new office building in the Old Sawmill District in Missoula in March.

The energy at the University of Montana has been on the rise and a big part of that is Tom Stergios has been spending more time at the university,” Bodnar told the crowd at the opening. “Today is a culmination of recognition of a tremendous partnership that has been going on for nearly a decade now between the university and the city of Missoula and ATG.”

Bodnar noted that ATG has hired roughly 100 UM graduates.

Stergios said the new hires represent a wide demographic range and come from a host of different industries.

“Most come from Montana and a few come from out-of-state,” he said. “Many have non-technical degrees. They were doing everything from running an eBay store to managing a health club to being a bartender. If you threw a rope around a group of hard-charging Missoulians, this cohort reflected that.”

The Montana Department of Commerce recently awarded ATG a $255,000 Big Sky Economic Trust Fund grant to reimburse it for equipment and wages for creating 34 new jobs. To qualify for the funding, companies have to bring in revenue from out of state and pay a high wage.

"When our businesses thrive, our communities and the hard-working Montanans who live and work there have new opportunities to grow as well,” said Gov. Steve Bullock in a statement. “These grants will invest in Montana’s economy by growing business and the jobs that support those businesses.”

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