For the past six months, nine employees at Uber Technologies have been studying statistics, data science and data integrity at University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC). The Uber Data Science Apprenticeship program—a partnership between the ride-share company and the university—aims to open equitable pathways into data science fields.
“Technology-reliant companies such as Uber have a great need to keep the skills of their employees current,” said UMGC President Greg Fowler. “UMGC can deliver that with our skills-oriented faculty who can teach up-to-date information. They are practitioner-scholars who are working on solutions to real-world problems and bringing those challenges directly into the classes they teach.”
Instead of leaving employees to update their skills on their own time and at their own expense, Uber has been paying students in the program their regular salaries and covering their tuition costs while the employees complete the full-time six-month training program.
Uber chose UMGC for the collaboration because of the university’s reputation for high-quality online coursework in information technology and its deep experience providing targeted courses for employees of corporate and government partners. UMGC, meanwhile, was interested in the apprenticeship program because it aligns with the university’s mission to remove entry barriers to higher education.
Christine Licata-Hoang, a senior account manager in UMGC’s Corporate Learning Solutions department, said Uber’s robust support has made it an exemplary client.
“They're highly involved,” she said. “Not only are they financially investing in their employees, but they're also providing a level of human resources and human capital support that goes above and beyond expectations. And students in the program tell them they are having a positive experience.”
Kim Tamayo, Uber’s inclusive recruiting program manager, said the company decided to team with the university because “UMGC staff are experts in providing impactful, on-demand education to adult learners.” The Uber Data Science Apprenticeship program seeks to open the door to data science careers within tech.
Uber students in the program came with a wide-range of experience, Licata-Hoang said. All of them have college degrees; some have master’s degrees and one has a doctorate. Among them are career-switchers who need hands-on training to build on past educational accomplishments. Others had started out in data analytics positions but lacked experience working in the consumer-app tech space.
UMGC listened to Uber’s Inclusive Recruiting team to determine the apprentices’ learning goals and the skill-building that would align with Uber’s data science and experimental design needs.
Although the UMGC classes are asynchronous, meaning students can take them on their own schedule, Uber has structured the apprentices’ days so they sign into the classes, do homework, and work with an Uber mentor as a cohort.
“Uber took a hands-on role in blending synchronous and asynchronous modalities,” Licata-Hoang said.
The mentor helps the students apply what they learn in class to actual challenges facing Uber technology employees every day. After students finish the three UMGC courses in the program, they work on an Uber-designed capstone project that blends concepts learned in the classroom with real-life projects the apprentices are likely to encounter as full-time team members.
Licata-Hoang said Uber was a “great match of mission and values” for the partnership. She also noted that programs like this could be applied to other corporations.
“Strategic partnerships with companies who want to invest in their team members is the core mission of UMGC’s Corporate Learning Solutions,” she said. “We are a team that firmly believes education can enhance people’s lives and help them achieve professional goals at any stage of their careers.”
UMGC President Greg Fowler said he hopes the apprenticeship program is the beginning of a long partnership with Uber Technologies, the San Francisco-based parent of a group of companies that provide ride-hailing, food delivery and freight transport services throughout the United States.