Promoting a future in engineering with Team Robins

  • Published
  • By Jenny Gordon
  • Robins Public Affairs
For prospective college graduates who have studied computer science or electrical engineering, the road to a federal career at Robins can begin with a warm greeting from Maci Jackson.

Armed with dozens of pamphlets printed with information about the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex, tri-folds describing civilian engineering career opportunities and knickknacks for curious students, employment recruiters such as Jackson stand ready for questions.

"What's it like working at an Air Force base? Do I have to enlist? What's the starting salary? What are the benefits?" they ask.

"They have no idea that this world is here," said Jackson. "I enjoy telling them the opportunities available - that it's a stable career and that you're a valuable asset for the Air Force."

A Baton Rouge, La., native, after graduating from Southern University A&M College, Jackson moved to Georgia's historic heartland and has worked in the Engineering Directorate's office as a recruiter for the last several years. 

As every recruiter recognizes, fall season can be a demanding schedule of visits to schools where students reside in respective recruiting territories. 

Recruiters rack up heavy mileage on their vehicles, while others experience the same routine flying nonstop across the country. It's an endless appointment with hotel rooms and breakfast bars, courtesy snacks and beverages on location, all while transporting suitcases, brochures and visual displays.   

From September to late November, Jackson participates in some 30 career fairs, mostly in the southeast and at Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico and the University of Puerto Rico. 

She travels to career fairs with the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and the National Society of Black Engineers.  

It's about keeping the Robins name out there and providing insight into the depot's mission. And of utmost importance - giving 20-somethings a realistic look at what they're supporting. 

"They get it," said Jackson. "It's not a hard sell. You have to find people who want to do this type of work."

Opportunities for graduates
Hiring mechanisms include the Expedited Hiring Authority and Pathways internships and recent graduates programs. 

Palace Acquire gives graduates an opportunity for permanent, full-time positions following a three-year development and training program, involving work experience and paid graduate studies.  

The Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation Program - a Department of Defense Scholarship for Service program - aims to increase the number of scientists and engineers by offering scholarships, paid internships and post-grad opportunities leading to employment. In fiscal 2015, Robins hired 87 employees through the various hiring mechanisms. 

A quick profile of engineers at the base includes electrical and software engineers, and computer scientists - most of whom work in the 402nd Software Maintenance Group. 

Most are from Georgia, with students coming from engineering powerhouses such as the Georgia Institute of Technology and Mercer University. In the Robins acquisition workforce, there are 1,542 civilian scientists and engineers (this number doesn't include the 78th Civil Engineer Group). So what's a newly-minted engineering grad to do? Entry-level candidates should have a bachelor's or master's degree in electrical, computer, software, mechanical, aerospace or industrial engineering, or computer science.

So, what does it pay?
Entry-level salaries for engineering grads - depending on degree, GPA and experience - ranges from  $44,615 to $57,368. That's dependent on the GS level hired at and their major. Computer science majors can start as a GS-5 at $38,000. 

Among incentives, there's a 25 percent bonus (subject to approval) and 100 percent tuition assistance, a 40-hour workweek, paid holidays and vacation, participation in the federal retirement system and health and life insurance benefits. 

In the 402nd Software Maintenance Group, there are 850 computer scientists and engineers - most are electronics and computer engineers. 

Louis Santiago, who graduated from Mercer in the spring with a master's degree in software engineering, joined the 579th Software Maintenance Squadron in June. 

"I definitely like being here. It's a great place to work and all the people are nice," said Santiago, a Las Vegas, Nev., native and 2010 Houston County High School graduate. His father, Andre, retired from the Air Force and is an F-15 program manager at Robins. 

Santiago said Robins is a good place for new graduates. He always had an interest in math and physics in high school, and advises students still in college to ask lots of questions and to take time to discover potential career paths.

"Make sure you do a lot of research in the field you're going into as it may not be what you want," he said. "Do a lot of exploring and ask a lot of questions of your peers. See what actually interests you." 

At just 23 years old, as an electronics engineer he works on software for the F-15.   

"I believe I'm contributing when I'm dealing with a part of the plane that protects the pilot...any work I do I know will be a great contribution to the warfighter," he said.

Editor's Note: This is part of an ongoing series about hiring and recruitment opportunities for engineers at Robins.