Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Pierce County earns national recognition for Mobile App Internship

If you’re a local college student looking to jump start a high tech career, Pierce County has an app for that.

Thanks to a partnership between Pierce County and the University of Washington Tacoma (UWT), local students get real-world experience making mobile applications for smartphones. As one of the first programs of its kind in the nation, Pierce County’s mobile internship was honored this month by the widely respected Digital Government Achievement Awards.

"The internship program is a great success for the community and the university," said Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy. "The county's Information Technology Department is providing enhanced services to citizens and staff, the university is offering practical learning opportunities, and interns are learning state-of-the-art programming skills that give them an edge in a competitive job market. I'm proud of the excellent work being done by sponsors and participants."

Interns work closely with a mentor to design, build, and launch a mobile app that works on Apple and Android devices. Students learn the latest software tools and gain skills that are in high demand with companies like Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Boeing.

Since the program began in 2011, interns have created seven apps for internal or public use. Here are three examples:
•    The MyVote app provides secure access to a citizen’s voter record as well as sample ballots and locations for ballot drop offs.
•    The Road Operations Active Response (ROAR) app enables Public Works and Utilities crews to instantly report mudslides, downed trees, etc. during emergencies. The app feeds Pierce County’s emergency databases with real-time road conditions.
•    The Emergency Shelter app helps residents find the locations and details of open emergency shelters during flooding, ice storms or other disasters.

More information about two of the public apps can be found here. Other public apps are in development.
Andrew Fry, assistant director of Industry Partnerships at UWT, praised the program as a “model” for how local government and universities can expand career opportunities. “I have worked with both large and small companies from Boeing and Microsoft to three-person startups. If I picked a model for how I would create an internship program with an industry partner, the one that has been developed with Pierce County is where I would start.”

The Digital Government Achievement Awards highlight outstanding agency and department websites and technology programs. View the complete list of DGAA awardees.