“Because of the type of work that we do, we need a lot of different skills, mostly in engineering and advanced manufacturing,” said Jeremy Tondreault vice president of operations at BAE Systems’ Electronic Systems sector. “But a lot of those skills weren’t available in the community, so we had to get creative.”
Company officials joined forces with Nashua Community College and created the Microelectronics Boot Camp. The 10-week, non-credit course is designed to help people learn the skills needed to work in the advanced manufacturing field. The intensive program teaches students basic military standards and assembly techniques for radio frequency and microwave electronic assemblies. Upon successful completion of the course, students are guaranteed an interview at BAE Systems.
Echrifa Bouabdellaoui heard about the program while working as a cashier in the company’s cafeteria. She enrolled, and admits the program wasn’t easy at first: “It was a big challenge,” she said. But she stuck with it, and now works as a bonder in BAE Systems’ South Nashua microwave manufacturing campus. “(The program) changed my life.”
Derek Curran says he is also grateful for the new career path he’s on, thanks to the boot camp. He was working in telecommunications, and really wanted to try something else. “I was tired of climbing up and down ladders, so I enrolled in the very first boot camp.” Curran now works as a wire bonder at the microwave manufacturing campus, and describes the boot camp as a whirlwind experience that changed his life. “I am on a strong career path now,” he says.
In two years, more than 80 people have graduated from the program. Of those participants, the company has hired more than 80 percent of the graduates.
“We couldn’t have done it without the partnership with BAE Systems,” said Nashua Community College President Lucille Jordan. “It was their engineers coming together with our faculty to develop the curriculum and because we’re a community college, we can be nimble and we can respond quickly to their needs and have the expertise of those engineers to design it.”
The boot camp classes typically have about 12 students, who are in class 40 hours a week for 10 weeks. Students come from a variety of backgrounds, and range in age from 19 to 61. To make sure the course remains current, about 15 to 20 BAE Systems employees help out each session, often mentoring or tutoring those in the course.
Microelectronics Boot Camp sessions run throughout the year. The most recent session began in October, and will be followed by one in January.