Laboratory Corporation of America (LabCorp) faced a large effort to reengineer software applications due to the looming Year 2000 challenges. As a result, it needed to hire additional programming staff to complete this significant programming effort on-time and with no impact to the business. At that time COBOL programmers were demanding premium salaries due to the demand being so great across the world for their talents. LabCorp needed a unique approach to staffing to solve their Year 2000 challenges.

As Director – Development Technologies, I was responsible for creating the LabCorp IS Rookie program. This program partnered with Universities across the State of North Carolina to identify their most talented upcoming graduates. Each graduate candidate participated in an extensive interview process to evaluate their technical skills and success potential. Those graduate candidates passing the interview process were offered acceptance into LabCorp’s IS Rookie program as a temporary hire.

The IS Rookie program was an extensive and demanding 11 week program that taught the trainee COBOL development and LabCorp development tools, techniques, and standards. The entire program was developed in-house and delivered by IS University staff for whom I had responsibility. The program included frequent assignments, evaluations, and tests used to measure each candidate. At the end of the 11 weeks a formal graduation was had for those candidates successfully completing the program. Graduates then become full-time LabCorp employees and were assigned to various departments across the IT organization.

The IS Rookie program was a great success and a win-win for all participants. The program allowed LabCorp to gain high-quality, highly trained candidates with great potential for success at significantly reduced labor costs than could be found on the open market. The candidates received high-quality, job specific training and were guaranteed a full-time position upon successful completion of the program. The Universities were able to offer high-capacity graduates a unique potential employment opportunity with a good, stable employer.

To offset the costs associated with this program, I went through an extensive application process and received a $150,000 grant from The State of North Carolina. The state has grant monies available for companies training and retraining employees for purposes of keeping business in the state. The grant requires partnering with and is administered by a junior college local to the grantee. In 2004 the State of North Carolina was evaluating eliminating this grant program due to budget cut requirements. Our grant sponsor went to the state legislature and used the LabCorp IS Rookie program as the model program for the state to successfully argue keeping funding for this important program.

In 2003, the IS Rookie program was reengineered to focus on J2EE/Java technologies. The program continued to work with Universities to identify high-capacity candidates, but also opened the program to existing LabCorp programmers to retrain them in J2EE/Java technologies.

The IS Rookie program had 7 graduating classes and a total of 79 graduates. Extrapolating the reduced personnel costs associated with this headcount results in a savings of approximately $2 million in annual personnel savings.