Providing a Fast Path from High School to High-Tech Careers
Alamo Academies, through mentorship, skill building and more, provides high school students with a pathway into advanced manufacturing careers. Program graduates earn high school and college credit, obtain industry-approved certifications and participate in an eight-week paid summer internship.
When Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX, closed in 1995, the workload was outsourced to government contractors, including Lockheed Martin and Boeing. As part of a 15-year contract, Lockheed Martin supported the development of fighter fleet engines and the maintenance, repair and overhaul of engines used in cargo aircraft for the U.S. government. In 1999, Lockheed Martin faced a future talent shortage as its aging workforce began to retire. The company had to quickly develop a strategy to fill the talent pipeline and transfer the knowledge and skills of its seasoned staff to the next generation of workers — a critically important task to ensure that Lockheed Martin could continue to provide the utmost quality expected by the nation’s armed forces.
Lockheed Martin started by offering summer internships to three high school students who were enrolled in aerospace technical courses. Upon the interns’ high school graduation, Lockheed Martin hired these students full time to become part of a new wave of skilled, young talent. The internships were such a success that, in 2001, Lockheed Martin commissioned local colleges and businesses to develop the Alamo Academies to “grow their own young talent” within the San Antonio community. The program was designed to close the region’s skills gap by developing a pipeline of skilled, entry-level workers for the high-tech industries of advanced manufacturing, health care, information technology, aerospace, and oil and gas heavy equipment. The resulting program now offers students in high school the opportunity to earn college credits, begin working in a high-tech industry, and prepare for further career and educational advancement.
Alamo Academies is operated by Alamo Area Academies, Inc., a nonprofit organization. Partners include Alamo Colleges; San Antonio area high schools; more than 100 industry partners (including Toyota and Lockheed Martin); manufacturing associations; economic development departments; chambers of commerce; government organizations (including Port San Antonio and Workforce Solutions Alamo); and the cities of New Braunfels, San Antonio and Seguin.
NUTS AND BOLTS
Alamo Academies is an award-winning, communitywide, collaborative STEM-based program for high school students to earn dual credit (high school and college), obtain industry-approved certifications and participate in an eight-week paid summer internship. Participating students are enrolled in one of five Alamo Academies: Advanced Technology and Manufacturing, Aerospace, Health Professions, Heavy Equipment, or Information Technology and Security. School districts provide the books and transportation for students, and Alamo Colleges provides authorized certification centers and instructors. Key elements of the program include:
Education: Students learn the technical and soft skills necessary to succeed in a high-tech industry.
Paid, For-Credit Internship: Students complete an eight-week, paid summer internship between their junior and senior years of high school that allows them to apply high-tech processes learned in the classroom to business projects. Under close supervision, student interns at Lockheed learn how to disassemble, prep, test and repair a jet engine; tag parts for service; and grind compressor blades.
Exposure to Executives and Development of Presentation Skills: At Toyota, interns present their internship experiences to Toyota executives in a process that mirrors the one used for full-time engineer management report-outs.
Mentorship: During their internship, students are assigned a supervisor and a team of colleagues, who serve as their mentors.
Industry-Recognized Certificates and Certifications: Graduates receive a Level I Certificate of Completion, certifying that the student has the skills and knowledge needed for an entry-level job in a high-tech industry. Students in the Advanced Technology and Manufacturing program receive nationally recognized Manufacturing Skill Standards Council Certified Production Technician certificates.
High School Diploma and College Credit toward an Associate/Bachelor’s Degree: Alamo Academies graduates earn a high school diploma and receive more than 30 tuition-free credit hours toward a postsecondary degree.
PROGRAM BENEFITS, RESULTS, AND OUTCOMES
Alamo Academies is recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor, the Federal Reserve Board of Dallas, the Texas Governor’s Office, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the Manufacturing Institute and the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council as a successful Higher Education Career Academy model for closing the skills gap. The Alamo Academies model may be applied across a range of industries, as evidenced by replication of the original Aerospace model to create the other four Academies programs.
Alamo Academies student benefits and outcomes include:
Strong Participation and Graduation Rate: More than 1,100 junior and senior high students have completed the program with an 84 percent first-time-in-college graduation rate — 22 times higher than the state average.
High-Paying Jobs: Graduates’ starting salaries are approximately $30,500, plus $12,200 in benefits.
Schools-to-Careers Pathway: 94 percent of graduates receive jobs or pursue higher education and training.
Pathway to Future Training and Advancement: Participants are eligible to receive financial support toward an associate or bachelor’s degree and for opportunities to complete partner company apprenticeships.
Academic Success for a Diverse Population: The student population is 78 percent minority (70 percent Hispanic, 6 percent African American and 2 percent Asian).
Scholarships: Program graduates have been awarded more than $14 million in scholarships since program establishment.
Alamo Academies community and business benefits include:
Pipeline of Skilled Entry-Level Workers: Alamo Academies is a demand-based education model triggered by partner businesses that establish the Academies’ target enrollment levels to meet their skilled labor demand. At Toyota, the program has provided workers the technical skills needed for advanced manufacturing operations, including troubleshooting and repairing robotics.
Mentoring and Training of the Future Workforce: Through the internship, businesses are able to mentor and train students on company processes and procedures to “grow their own local talent.” This provides businesses priority access to skilled, certified talent while reducing the resources allocated to recruit talent through mainstream hiring practices, such as career fairs and job boards.
Economic Development: Alamo Academies is a strong recruiting tool for encouraging companies to relocate to the San Antonio region. A factor in Toyota’s decision to build a manufacturing plant in San Antonio was the Alamo Academies Advanced Technology and Manufacturing program, which provides Toyota a dedicated pipeline of skilled entry-level workers.
SUSTAINABILITY AND OVERCOMING IMPLEMENTATION CHALLENGES
Alamo Academies partners contribute more than $2 million annually to support program operating costs: Alamo Colleges provides facilities, equipment and instruction; school districts provide textbooks and transportation; employers pay intern salaries; and cities fund operating costs. Toyota also plays a vital role in its commitment to increasing awareness of the program benefits and supporting smaller businesses interested in hosting Alamo Academies summer interns. Through a grant, Toyota provides six smaller businesses the funds necessary to hire and pay Alamo Academies summer interns.
WORDS OF WISDOM
Recommendations for businesses interested in building a collaborative, community-based school-to-career program include:
Be Engaged in Training Your Future Workforce: Businesses must be dedicated to developing and sustaining programs that close the skills gap and ensure that their industry continues to thrive. Through internships, businesses can expose young students to the latest technologies and skills needed to remain competitive.
Develop a Demand-Based Education System: Education institutions must align student enrollment to industry workforce demands.
Rally the Community: This model requires a commitment from local government, workforce development teams, schools and employers.
Communicate Program Benefits to Key Stakeholders: Partners must educate parents and high school career counselors on programs, such as Alamo Academies, that lead to high-demand, high-paid jobs with little or no college debt.
Obtained by ‘Work-and-Learn in Action: Successful Strategies for Employers’, published by the National Network of Business and Industry Association. This is available for download at http://bit.ly/1l0atKu. This is intended to equip employers with practical, actionable information that can be used to develop quality work and learn programs that lead to a stronger workforce.