The Culture of Business
Great post about our Alamo Academies in The Atlantic Cities.
Job-skills training is a popular policy issue in the wake of the Great Recession—President Obama made it a centerpiece of his reelection campaign, and House Republicans have pledged to make federal job-training programs a priority in the current Congress. Yet the Alamo Academies got their start in the early 2000s, an inauspicious time for vocational education nationally, and particularly in Texas. As Texas governor and then as president, George W. Bush focused on accountability testing in education. Getting kids to pass academic tests and make it into a four-year college remains a priority for schools here, but the success of the Alamo Academies is turning heads.
The Aerospace Academy began because Lockheed Martin had a problem: Workers were reaching retirement age. San Antonio had long been a center of heavy-aircraft maintenance, thanks to its local Air Force bases. But no pipeline existed to encourage and train young people to enter the field.
So Joe Wilson, then the manager of staffing and development at Lockheed Martin, approached a local community college to talk about possible solutions. Within a few years, the aerospace sector, city hall, and the Alamo Community Colleges had developed a program that would, they hoped, encourage teenagers to consider a career in the aerospace industry, and accelerate their path to becoming certified mechanics.
Students who are accepted into the competitive Aerospace Academy spend their junior and senior years of high school taking courses that count toward both a high school and a community-college degree, at no charge. They also complete a paid summer internship hosted by an industry partner. The program has proved so successful, Wilson says, that about 20 percent of Lockheed Martin’s directly hired workforce now comes from the Aerospace Academy.
The program inspired other industries to follow the same model. San Antonio now has four such academies, which train students to work in aerospace, manufacturing, health care, and information technology. All four are dual-credit programs that include a paid summer internship.