Boeing & St. Louis Community College: A Riveting Partnership
By Suzanne Vanderhoef
Have you ever looked up in the sky and wondered what it takes to be a part of the team that actually makes jet planes? A local program is helping make it easier to find out.
Since 2007, Boeing and the St. Louis Community College Center for Workforce Innovation have partnered in the Boeing Pre-Employment Training Program — a month-long course in assembly or composite mechanics. And it’s completely free!
Boeing Midwest Technical Training Manager Gerald Hager explains, “It basically trains them up from ground zero to be able to be able to come into Boeing.”
Students have to pass a test to be accepted into the program. And they come in with a wide variety of experience and backgrounds: recent high school grads, older students returning to the workforce, even people just wanting to try something new.
Some have never even held a drill motor, so instructors start with the basics and work up to teaching more them technical skills. By the time they’re done, they’re working on projects that mimic real aircraft assemblies.
“A little more on-the-job training and they can handle just about anything you put to them as far as assembling aircraft or aerospace assemblies,” says instructor and Boeing retiree Ken Lowe.
The program has two tracks: a 5-week sheet metal concentration, which concentrates on fabrication and drilling; and a 3-1/2 week focus on working with composites.
After completing the program, students get a certificate and an opportunity to interview with Boeing. So far, more than 600 have been hired and more than 2/3 of all Boeing assembly mechanics in St. Louis are graduates of the program.