About Alamo Academies
- Higher Education Program of Studies
- Workforce and Economic Development Partnership: Solving the School-to-Careers Pipeline
The Alamo Academies is a national award winning, innovative, STEM-based instructional model operated by the Alamo Area Academies Inc., a non-profit organization, in partnership with the Alamo Colleges, San Antonio area high schools, industry and the cities of San Antonio, New Braunfels and Seguin providing America’s youth with tuition-free career pathways into critical demand technical STEM occupations. The program utilizes contextualized industry-driven curricula resulting in 94% of graduates entering higher education or high-wage careers in Aerospace, Manufacturing, Information Technology, and Health.
Why The Alamo Academies Model was Developed
San Antonio was one of the first communities in the country to address the “skills-gap” issue through a partnership between the Alamo Colleges, industry and public schools by founding the Alamo Academies – a highly successful “Higher Education Career Academies” model recognized and commended by the U.S. Department of Labor, Manufacturing Skill Standards Council (MSSC), Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), Texas Governor’s Office, the Manufacturing Institute (MI) and the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. The National Journal cited the Alamo Academies as one of the top workforce innovations in the country. The Academies address the region’s lack of a high-tech, high-skilled labor force by developing a pipeline of skilled technicians to staff new jobs and replace an aging workforce in Aerospace, Information Technology (IT), Advanced Manufacturing, and Health Career sectors. The Academies provide a college pathway for high school juniors and seniors to attain industry and academic certificates that lead to high-wage jobs or to further higher education while addressing critical workforce industry needs. Joe Wilson, Lockheed Martin, stated that “We were trying to develop a strategy to replace a retiring workforce. We wanted to make sure we transferred the knowledge and experience employees had before they retired. So back in 1999, we partnered with the Alamo Colleges to develop a pipeline of young workers prepared to take jobs in our industry. The rest is history.”
In 1995, the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission closed Kelly Air Force Base. Some of the workload was outsourced/privatized by the Clinton administration to defense contractor companies such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing. The Alamo Academies supported the region’s ability to meet the challenge from the 1995 BRAC decision, helped solve its critical need for college educated high-tech employees and supported industry’s ability to be globally competitive.
Since inception in 2001, over 1,269 graduates received training in high-wage demand occupations during their junior and senior high school years. The Alamo Academies has a 15 year proven track record of graduates earning a tuition free one year Level I Certificate of Completion and industry credentials; receiving work experience through industry paid internships; and helping 94% of graduates transition into higher education or well-paid careers in Aerospace, Advanced Manufacturing, IT, Nursing and Heavy Equipment. The San Antonio Express-News reported the Alamo Academies is, “Perhaps the biggest education success story of the past decade in San Antonio….”
Process and Timeline
The Alamo Academies is a demand based education model. The process is triggered by industry engagement when they set target enrollment levels based on projected/quantifiable workforce demand. This is followed by a collaborative process identifying the curriculum pathway, recruitment, matriculation, and support systems utilizing a dual credit career academy model that allows students to complete high school and college graduation requirements in one of the demand occupations (Aerospace, Advanced Manufacturing, IT, Nursing and Heavy Equipment). The implementation phase requires that students are bused to the Alamo Colleges campus daily where they engage in 2 ½ hours of instruction needed to complete a one year technical college program of studies, as part of the Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree pathway. During the 2 year program, students earn 30 college credits at no personal cost allowing them to receive both a college degree and high school diploma. Academies students are paid almost $3,000 through an industry internship and may earn AAS, Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Master of Arts (MA) Degrees at no cost through industry tuition reimbursement or scholarships. The program is universal so the only eligibility criteria is for students to be in good standing, be college ready, and desire to participate in target occupational pathways. To enrich their high school experience and build teamwork skills, students retain University Interscholastic League eligibility and many participate in extra-curricular athletic or academic activities. Upon graduation, students can either attain a high-wage/high-skill career in a demand occupation or continue with their higher education pathway/degree studies.
The Alamo Academies model acknowledges both students and community stakeholder participants. Student participants are recruited from more than 25 local school systems (public and private). The Academies stakeholder participants include: (1) Alamo Colleges (2) More than 25 Independent School Districts (ISD’s), private and charter schools in the colleges’ service area (3) More than 100 regional employers from Aerospace, Advanced Manufacturing, IT, Health and Heavy Equipment, such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Toyota, HOLT CAT, ITM, H-E-B, CPS Energy, ASCO, RDO, ROMCO, Innove, Delta-Risk, PSI, Chromalloy, StandardAero, Danbury AeroSpace, Cox Manufacturing, Hexcel Corporation, Precision Mold & Tool, Anthony Machines, VT San Antonio Aerospace, New Braunfels Utilities, and Valero (4) Multiple cities, (5) Manufacturing Associations, Economic Development Departments, Chambers of Commerce and (6) Government organizations such as Port San Antonio and Workforce Solutions Alamo.
Our partners contribute over $2 million to support operating costs. The Alamo Colleges provide facilities, equipment and instruction; ISD’s provide textbooks and round trip transportation; employers pay their intern’s salaries; and cities fund operating costs. Testament to the community stakeholder’s support is the City of San Antonio-Alamo Colleges Interlocal Agreement that provides funds for Academies operations. The city council ordnance notes that “The Academies represent a cost-effective economic development investment for the City and also, reinforces the stated goals of the City’s Strategic Plan for Enhanced Economic Development.” In 2012, Alamo Colleges purchased a 40,000 sq/ft state of the art facility and 30 acres from Port San Antonio to house the Academies for $5.2 million. What is especially unique in the transaction is that no cash was exchanged. Rather, the purchase price is being paid from credits Alamo Colleges earn by our graduation of students over the 20 year life of the loan meeting the needs of aerospace employers: $10,000 for Academies new hires, $2,500 for certifications, and 20% for grants generated. This sale was designated as the Commercial Land Deal of the Year by the San Antonio Business Journal.
Alamo Academies Achievements, Recognition and Awards
The prestigious Community College Futures Assembly Bellwether Award presented to the Alamo Academies in the Workforce Development category, recognizing outstanding and innovative programs and practices that are successfully leading community colleges into the future. “In more than 1,200 national community colleges this is one of the highest honors an institution can receive” said Dr. Dale Campbell, Director of the Community College Futures Assembly and Institute of Higher Education.
Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s (THECB)Star Award recognizing exceptional contributions toward meeting the state’s “Closing the Gap” higher education goals
2012 Cyber Patriot National Champions, the premier national high school cyber defense competition created inspiring high school students toward careers in cyber security or other STEM disciplines
For 5 of the last 6 years in a row, the Academies won the San Antonio Mayor’s Cyber Cup and sent a team to the Cyber Patriot national finals
Texas Economic Development Council (TEDC) Workforce Excellence Award recognizing successful workforce initiatives
International Economic Development Council (IEDC) Gold Award recognition for talent development. The IEDC is the world’s largest professional organization for economic development practitioners
Community College Futures Assembly Legacy Award finalist recognizing innovation
The Manufacturing Skill Standards Council (MSSC) identified the Academies as a “Best Practices” model stating, “The Alamo Academies program has developed one of the most successful models in the U.S. in integrating the courses and industry-recognized credentials offered by the national [MSSC] into their academic, for-credit curriculum. The Alamo Academies program is a model of the kind of community-wide strategy that, in MSSC’s experience, provides the best framework for successful MSSC implementation.”
Manufacturing Institute highlighted Alamo Academies as “Best Practice” Spotlight under their Skills Certification System
NSF-Automotive Manufacturing Training and Education Consortium selected the Academies one of five exemplary career pathway programs in the nation. In their report,“The Alamo Academies model is the best program…seen worldwide executing all major characteristics of a pathway model.”
U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis recognized the successful workforce model during her visit to the Academies last year tweeting “Success stories at Alamo Academies…today! Good hi-tech jobs await the students.”
U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez visited the Alamo Academies as well in 2014 telling the Academies student’s “This is America 21st century manufacturing, and it’s cool!”
National Career Pathways Network (NCPN) Career Pathways Partnership Excellence Award for emphasizing the importance of career guidance and employer role in providing work-based learning opportunities for students
The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas recognized the Academies on their website as an industry-driven workforce development model that is helping solve the broken school-to-work pipeline, is sustainable and supports companies’ global competitiveness
The National Journal highlighted this outstanding program in two separate articles in their national publication and website and also cited the Alamo Academies as one of the top workforce innovations in the country providing a solution for problems facing America today. Over 1,001 graduates; 95% of graduates continued higher education or obtained jobs in target industries
Graduates awarded over $14.3 Million in Scholarships
89% first-time-in-college (FTIC) students earned a Level I Certificate of Completion – a graduation rate 22 times higher than the state average
Over 2,100 industry certificates awarded
Diverse student population composed of 78% minority students (70% Hispanic, 22% Caucasian, 6% African-American and 2% Asian); 80% Male and 20% Female
Graduates starting pay approx. $42,700: Salary: $30,500 ($14.65 x 2080 hrs) plus $12,200 benefits
Alamo Academies Model Outcomes
An important first outcome is that the Academies model is replicable as evidenced by the replication of additional pathways. While the first program in 2001 focused on Aerospace, the model has added or replicated 4 additional pathways: IT (2002); Manufacturing (2004); Health Professions (2009); and Heavy Equipment (2014). A second outcome learned is that articulated pathways can be created between public schools and community colleges that connect students to industry demand occupations. Thirdly, successful models must be sustainable and supported by all aspects of the community (education, industry and government). The model is also, transferable to other communities, states and even internationally. Jim Perschbach, Boeing attorney, stated “The city of Seattle is looking to the Alamo Academies program to strengthen their competitiveness in the aerospace industry. Furthermore, Toyota built a new manufacturing plant here in San Antonio in part due to the proven pipeline the Academies model generates.” Recently, community leaders from the Dominican Republic, Columbia and Brazil visited the Academies to learn how to replicate this outstanding program in their countries.