Cognizant’s Advanced Technology Group hired 26 students who graduated from the company’s first class in a new specialized training program at the University of Montana Wednesday night.

The program, called All-In Missoula, trains students in business essentials, consulting, systems analysis and design, data analytics and more. The goal is to prepare students, with the help of UM, to work for companies like ATG and Cognizant.

University of Montana president Seth Bodnar and ATG senior vice president of strategy and corporate development Tom Stergios planned the program in a matter of months, and are happy to have new employees joining the ATG team.

“Seth and I were in a meeting, and we were so fired up about this program and we knew the potential," Stergios said. "We knew what might happen. We knew the work ethic of Montana kids. We knew the power of the University of Montana and we knew what Cognizant training and ATG spirit and training could do. We had high hopes: 26 finished and 26 have full-time jobs.”

The 12-week program at Missoula College pays students a living wage while they train and provides instruction by UM faculty. At the end, participants can interview for possible employment with ATG and Cognizant.

The Cognizant ATG Missoula Solution Center houses about 90 employees in its new 15,700-square-foot space on Wyoming Street, with plans to expand the Cambium Place workforce to 125. About 175 employees work for ATG across Montana.

ATG was named one of the state's top tech employers of 2018 by the Montana High Tech Business Alliance.

Using the program to recruit employees is a viable way to provide Missoula with good-paying jobs while growing ATG’s workforce, said Amita Greer, manager of All-In Missoula. The company plans to have four to six cohorts graduate from the program.

Participants from around the state and beyond who have little to no technology backgrounds are encouraged to apply for the program online.

“Our goal, generally, is 100 percent success for all of our students, and we definitely plan to continue to grow,” she said.

Olivia Hockenbroch, a UM graduate student who participated in the program, said she developed an app that could be used by delivery services.

“I think the way I look at the world has been changed immensely by the knowledge I’ve gained over the past 12 weeks,” Hockenbroch said.

She said that while she was studying for her master’s degree in communication studies at UM with a plan to become a professor, she decided to take a chance and learn something new. Now, she has a full-time job with ATG and Cognizant.

“I think it’s a really safe environment that’s created amongst the training groups to try it out, to try and fail, and because of the team-building atmosphere that we have, it’s so much fun,” she said.

Bodnar said the university’s partnership with ATG will provide the help needed as industries and the workforce change. Students leave the program knowing that Java is more than just a cup of joe, he said.

“You 26 went on a cold February day and you entered a room and some of you didn’t know what the heck was being talked about on that screen," Bodnar said. "I know that feeling and it’s not easy. But you put yourself out there and you stretched outside your comfort zone."

The second group of students has already started their training session, with future cohort start dates to be announced.

ATG, Cognizant and UM will continue to work together, Bodnar said, and the partnership looks forward to helping people advance their careers.

“We’ve got the heart of a Grizzly beating in ATG,” Bodnar said. “That’s why Cognizant comes in here and loves this company. It’s got Grizzlies all over it, and that partnership between a phenomenal Missoula company and their university is fantastic.”

Reporter Mari Hall can be reached via email at