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Boeing/STLCC Program Named Finalist for Bellwether Award

Boeing St. Louis Pre-employment Training program participantsA collaborative program aimed to meet the workforce needs of the highly specialized aerospace manufacturing sector has been named a finalist for the 2023 Bellwether Award.

The Boeing St. Louis Pre-employment Training program, led by St. Louis Community College’s Workforce Solutions Group, is one of the finalists for the prestigious Bellwether Award in the Workforce Development category. The awards will be presented during the Community College Futures Assembly Feb. 26-28 in San Antonio, Texas.

The Bellwether Awards annually recognize outstanding and innovative programs and practices that are successfully leading community colleges into the future. Winners and finalists are invited to join the prestigious Bellwether College Consortium.

The award in the Workforce Development category recognizes public and/or private strategic alliances and partnerships that promote community and economic development.

The Problem and the Solution

To support new program contracts and program growth, as well as address a talent shortage due to retirements, Boeing needed to create a sustainable pipeline for future hiring. To solve this problem, Boeing St. Louis and STLCC’s Workforce Solutions Group partnered in 2007 on the Boeing St. Louis Pre-Employment program to train candidates to work as aircraft assembly mechanics.  

As part of this program, STLCC instructional designers teamed up with Boeing to develop two pathways: Sheet Metal Assembler, Riveter (SMAR) and Composites Technology. 

SMAR training requires 200 contact hours; composites technology, 120 hours. Both also require eight hours of teambuilding and four hours of interview skills. STLCC staff also assists students with updating and revising their resumes in preparation for the Boeing application process. 

Upon successful completion of the program, graduates are guaranteed an interview with Boeing; however, jobs are not guaranteed. Additionally, students can receive nine credit hours for the SMAR course. Those who have a mathematics class credit on their transcripts may apply for a Certificate of Specialization in STLCC’s Skilled Trades Industrial Occupations Technology program. Credit for the composites technology program also can be pursued.  

This is Boeing’s only pre-employment program of this kind in the country.  

“Through our collaboration with St. Louis Community College, the Pre-Employment Training program has helped more than 1,000 workers in the St. Louis region develop important skills to create viable career pathways at Boeing and in the manufacturing industry,” said Paisley Matthews, air dominance vice president of manufacturing and safety at Boeing St. Louis. “Boeing is proud of the strong, long-lasting, positive impact this program and partnership have in the community where our employees live and work. Our goal is to launch 1,000 more careers in the years to come.”

Jeff L. Pittman, Ph.D., STLCC chancellor, echoed the same sentiments. 

“Boeing’s participation and partnership is key to the success of this program, which epitomizes the strong collaboration between the business sector and both the workforce and credit side of the College” he said. 

According to Becky Epps, manager of STLCC’s Center for Workforce Innovation, a unique benefit of the program is the fact that it is led by instructors who bring years of real-world experience to the classroom. 

A participant in the Boeing St. Louis Pre-employment Training program“When developing this program, we knew it was imperative to have high-quality instructors, so we sought to hire Boeing retirees to serve on our staff,” she said. “The knowledge of the very specialized aerospace manufacturing industry, combined with the respect for the work they bring to the classroom is invaluable.”

As part of the program, Boeing managers accompany the STLCC soft skills training facilitator to teach interview skills to ensure participants receive real-world insight into the Boeing interview and hiring process.

All costs for the program are covered by Boeing, which enables students to complete it with no out-of-pocket expenses. Moreover, students receiving unemployment are eligible to continue receiving benefits while in training since the program is approved by Missouri’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

To cast a wider net of prospects and make the program inclusive to women and high school students, Boeing and STLCC also implemented the Women in Aerospace Manufacturing program and the Second Semester High School Senior program, which allows high school students to simultaneously attend the training program and high school with the potential of a job offer after graduation. 

The Results 

In 2022, Boeing St. Louis and STLCC celebrated a major milestone -- the 1,000th job placement of the program. Since its inception, 1,321 individuals have graduated from the program, and Boeing has hired 1,082 of the graduates.

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