First High-School-Age STLCC, Boeing Program Grads Receive Job Offers

By on June 5, 2019
First High-School-Age STLCC, Boeing Program Grads Receive Job Offers

STLCC Boeing pre-employment training grads each earn an unexpected job offer after successfully completing the rigorous program.

Six local high school students started out the night celebrating their graduation from the St. Louis Community College (STLCC) Boeing pre-employment training program and ended the evening ecstatic to have received an unexpected job offer from Boeing.

“I’m excited and relieved,” said graduate Jordan Ware, who planned to accept Boeing’s offer to work on the 777X, which will be the largest and most efficient twin-engine jet in the world.

Each of the graduates—who represented North Technical, South Technical, Pattonville and Fort Zumwalt West high schools—were offered employment by either the 777X, F-15 or F-18 advanced airplane part manufacturing team after successfully completing the intensive training and interviewing the day prior to graduation. These young high-school-aged individuals are guaranteed to start with an impressive $17 hourly rate (potentially more depending on the shift worked), overtime opportunities, a 50 cent-per-hour raise every six months as well as possible performance incentives. Boeing offers a 401(k) plan with contribution matches, competitive health and wellness plans, and a tuition assistance program up to $15,000 annually after one year of employment. Benefits such as these are coveted by workers of any age, and this unique cohort made up the first class of high school students to complete the expert-led, tuition-free training program.

“It’s free; not too many industry classes are free. It is taught by Boeing tech instructors and retired mechanics out on that shop floor, really transferring that knowledge,” said Dan Stroot, Boeing senior manager of learning, training and development. “It’s a very tough program. This program’s been in existence for over 11 years and we’ve hired 650 people. By the end of this year we’ll be well over 700 hires.”

Boeing senior manager Dan Stroot at training graduation

Boeing Senior Manager of Learning, Training and Development, Dan Stroot, addresses the crowd of graduates and the parents and high school counselors who have supported their journey.

Located at the STLCC Center for Workforce Innovation, this accelerated training program offers two standard pathways for mechanic jobs at Boeing: the 208-hour sheet metal assembler and riveter (SMAR) training track or the 128-hour composites mechanic training track. This particular cohort’s SMAR training deviated from the typical timeframe to better suit these busy students’ work, school and extracurricular schedules. Classes were held four days a week, for four hours over four months—even during the high schoolers’ spring break periods.

“They were truly dedicated,” said Becky Epps, STLCC program manager for Boeing pre-employment training.

To be considered for the training, prospective students had to submit a résumé and recommendation letter, take WorkKeys® assessments and pass a layout assessment testing their ability to follow directions, interpret measurements and measure accurately.

“We had a total of 44 high school students send in résumés, held four informational sessions and 23 of the 44 came in for informational sessions from 13 different schools,” Epps informed the crowd. “Of the 23, 12 students passed the layout assessment, and 10 of 12 passed the WorkKeys assessment and were ready to come into training as long as they had their letter. One student opted out, so we started with nine and have six graduating tonight.”

Stroot elaborated on how appropriately challenging the program is in setting the students up for long-term success.

“Roughly 33% did not make it through,” he told the proud students, families, friends and staff. “Even with adults…roughly 40% do not make it through this program. It is fast-paced. It is industry-specific. It tries to get them ready for when they’re going into the Boeing company.”

Boeing training graduates offered jobs

Program graduates learn they have all received job offers from Boeing. Hats represent the program they will support.

Boeing training program guarantees graduates an interview opportunity

Students receive hands-on advanced manufacturing training coupled with soft skills like résumé preparation and interview techniques, which they immediately put to good use.

“It’s one of the unique programs that guarantees you an interview with the Boeing company when we’re hiring,” said Stroot. “It doesn’t guarantee you a job, but it guarantees you an interview. That’s huge.”

A program graduate who makes it into the company instantly undergoes additional training and enters a probation period, where their skills and quality of work are measured alongside their attendance record, attitude, ability to work well on a team, communication and more. The company’s philosophy of nurturing, incentivizing and elevating hard-working, dedicated employees is evident right when a new hire sets his or her foot in the door.

“That’s what this program really tries to instill because we want them to be very successful once they get inside,” said Stroot. “It’s an opportunity for them to get into the industry, into one of the largest aerospace companies in the world.”

The Boeing Company is an American multinational aerospace corporation and leading manufacturer of commercial jetliners, defense, space and security systems, and service provider of aftermarket support. This more than 100-year-old company is America’s largest exporter of products, supporting airlines and U.S. and allied government customers in more than 150 countries.

Boeing training graduate Jarod Vaughn

Former program graduate and current Boeing employee, Jarod Vaughn, shares his experiences.

STLCC Boeing accelerated training program makes a lasting impact on students

Former pre-employment program graduate and current Boeing employee, 20-year-old Jarod Vaughn, has already worked as an assembly mechanic on the 777X for the past year-and-a-half. Vaughn attended the graduation ceremony to share a few insights about his own experience with the program and Boeing employment.

“It’s a great workplace, great work environment,” Vaughn said. “I work with very smart, intelligent people that are always willing to be good team workers. I have engineering support groups all day, every day, there to help me if I’m having trouble with something. [There are] great managers all across the floor and they’re always trying to expand your knowledge and teach you new things.”

Many students find out about the program from previous participants like Vaughn. Ware first learned about the program from a friend who works for Boeing and went through the pre-employment program as well. After seeing his friend’s success, Ware knew the program could provide invaluable possibilities for him, and the high school cohort gave him an ideal opportunity to receive training while balancing school, work, and his involvement with SkillsUSA, a partnership of students, teachers and industry professionals advancing members through training, education and competitions.

Like Ware, many of the students of this cohort are high achievers with impressive résumés showcasing relevant activities and accolades: honor students with A+ awards, robotics team members, state champions for engineering and technology competitions and more.

Boeing training graduates Mitchell and Montgomery Palmer

Twin brothers and fellow program graduates, Mitchell Palmer (second from the right) and Montgomery Palmer (far right), share some insights on the manufacturing process during the Center for Workforce Innovation facility tour.

Mitchell “Mitch” Palmer and Montgomery “Gum” Palmer are prime examples of some of the highly accomplished members of this cohort. They were exposed to engineering at a young age through the car dealership their dad owned, giving them access to engines they could take apart and reassemble. Their love for creating with their hands continued to blossom as they built dirt bikes and four-wheelers, joined their school’s robotics team and the Technology Students Association (TSA), and ultimately won their divisions in Missouri state championships. These remarkable twins have been supporting, pushing and inspiring one another for as long as they can remember, so their success with the Boeing training program came as no surprise.

“Having a twin through the program definitely could have been a curse if one of us did fail out, but it definitely was a blessing,” Montgomery Palmer said. “It created a camaraderie and a type of challenge to continuously be better no matter what.”

Initial interest in the program was sparked when Mitchell Palmer received a flyer at work when he was a junior in high school but too young for the cohorts at that time. An email he later received from his high school counselor reignited his curiosity and inspired him to consider the opportunity more seriously with his brother.

“I’m like, ‘Oh man, Gum. This is a crazy opportunity to get into,’” Mitchell Palmer said. “And he’s like ‘OK, let’s do it.’ So, we both got our letters of recommendation, our résumés and everything and we applied and got in.”

Boeing pre-employment assessment test gives students a taste of what’s to come

Even with a long history of prevailing over a multitude of engineering and robotics challenges, the brothers found the application process and skill testing rather intimidating.

“It felt very good to get in,” said Montgomery Palmer. “It was very stressful at the start when we had to do our layout test. It was the first test we took just to see if you had, I guess, a little bit of the aptitude needed to start off, and it was very stressful. It was on a time limit and you didn’t know exactly what it was going to be, but we ended up passing and going through. But it just felt amazing to know that we could continue on and have a chance of making it all the way through and at completing the program, and eventually work for Boeing.”

The hands-on, technical facets of the program did not get much easier after the initial testing. The course is purposefully designed to translate to the factory floor, providing a mirror to what it is like to work independently and as a team under supervision.

“The most challenging for me was countersinking: after you drill you make one side of the metal sheet a little bit deeper than the other,” said Ware. “Everything that I did in the program, I’ve never done before. This was my first time actually ever touching metal, so it was difficult at first, but as we went on during the program it became a lot clearer to understand, and it just became second nature by the end of it.”

Boeing training graduate Jordan Ware

Program graduate, Jordan Ware (center), discusses some of his work during the facility tour.

While the curriculum certainly tested their capabilities, the students found great satisfaction and value from learning in such a supportive environment.

“It is a very tough class. I’m not going to skimp out on that. It’s very rigorous. I mean, going to school at 6:00 a.m. and then going to bed at 10:00 p.m. every night, it was tough,” said Mitchell Palmer. “It was a lot of fun, and just ask questions if you’re lost—that’s all I can say—because they’re not here to fail you, they’re here to actually see you succeed. And that turned out today. All six of us guys got offers.”

Montgomery Palmer also attributed a lot of his success to the sincerity and aptitude of the instructors.

“The teachers are absolutely wonderful. Our instructors, they help you so much,” he said. “They give you the tools and tricks of the trade that you need to be able to continue forward, because trying to figure this out on your own would be a learning curve that I would find to be almost impossible to do. And they follow you through the whole way and it’s absolutely wonderful.”

Soft-skill training rounds out the program experience with confidence-building tips

Toward the conclusion of the four months, the students received the soft-skill training that they praised as playing an integral role in their ability to interview with a greater level of self-assurance.

“I was confident,” Ware said of his interview with Boeing. “The instructors made me feel relaxed because they told us how much they talked about us. They had so much confidence in us and said that we were a pretty good group and that they actually had faith in us that we would make it, so that actually made it relaxing.”

Past graduate, Vaughn, affirmed that the soft skills he learned from the Boeing pre-employment training program helped him secure his job.

“I think they definitely factored in,” he said. “They really taught me a lot of skills about talking to other people and going through interviews, and how—when they ask me a question—how I should answer it. Always have a resolution, just give good details. So, yeah, I think those extra days taught me a lot.”

Now that the students have received employment opportunities with Boeing, Stroot reinforced the fact that there are a multitude of career pathways and possibilities with the company.

“The piece that really makes the difference with this company is that you have a career. You can invest in this company, you can save for retirement, you can expand your career, you can go to different places; it’s 140,000 people worldwide. And that’s what makes this company a great company,” he said.

Boeing and STLCC instructor, Dave Miller, encouraged the graduates to capitalize on as many of the benefits offered as possible.

“This is simply an entry. What would you do? You’re getting the opportunity now to walk into a great corporation to where you can become—honestly, with enough drive, work and education—you could do anything you desire to do in there,” Miller said. “Each and every one of you gentlemen will develop your own reputation out there, and so what will you be known as? Will you be known as one of the best sheet metal mechanics that we have out there, one of the best assembly mechanics? Dream. You’ve got to get that education. Take advantage of it. Don’t sit still. If you desire to be an assembly mechanic, desire to be the best assembly mechanic out there, so that when you retire 30 years from now or whatever it is, that you knew you were one of the best, and you were recognized as being one of the best. Go and do something with yourself. Better yourself. Whatever it is, be the best.”

Boeing training graduate and facilitator shake hands

Program graduate, Montgomery Palmer, shares a handshake with a Boeing, STLCC program facilitator.

The beginning of a bright, opportunity-filled future with Boeing

For Montgomery Palmer, tuition reimbursement was the benefit that excited him most in this season of his life.

“Getting college paid for—that’s the biggest deal to me,” said Montgomery Palmer. “The money’s great, and everything else—the benefits, the healthcare it’s all wonderful—but the college to me is the best. My goal is to end up getting a business degree, get a master’s or a doctorate in business and move up through the company.”

Mitchell Palmer shared a similar sentiment about the seemingly limitless opportunities his employment with Boeing would provide.

“Being able to work for Boeing and do a job that I actually appreciate and I want to do, and then to actually be able to go to college for that as well is really nice,” he said. “It really opens my eyes to what I can do in this company. I want to strive to do the best I can. And we’ve always been taught that, don’t be just average. Be who you want to be. Go above and beyond.”

Are you interested in learning more about this exceptional accelerated training opportunity? Visit the Boeing pre-employment training program webpage or call 314-513-4602 to learn more.

Boeing training graduate Luke Hildreath at facility tour

Program graduate, Luke Hildreath, provides insights into his work during the facility tour.

Boeing VP Wally Page at training graduation

Boeing VP Mfg Strike, Surveillance and Mobility and ST Site Leader, Wally Page, addresses the graduation crowd.

Boeing training graduate Ben Wingerter at facility tour

Program graduate, Ben Wingerter, proudly displays some of his work.

Boeing training graduate Matt Martin at facility tour

Touring family and friends receive insights into the manufacturing process from program graduate, Matt Martin.

About Rebecca Rutherford

Rebecca Rutherford is Marketing Communications Coordinator of St. Louis Community College’s Workforce Solutions Group, which delivers non-credit continuing education opportunities, corporate training and community services to the St. Louis region.

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