Raytheon, Union and Community College Partner to Build Strong Workforce
When Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems in Andover needed Test B technicians, they turned to Northern Essex Community College, asking the college to create a credit certificate program that would prepare entry-level Raytheon employees for promotions.
That was in 2008, and, since then, 125 Raytheon employees, most of whom started as assemblers, have gained the skills to move up in their field. The company also has expanded the program to include a noncredit option for Test B technicians that want to prepare for higher-level Test A technician jobs, and 70 have completed that program.
This partnership between a major employer, the employee union and the local community college, is paying off for the employees, who are advancing, and for the company, which is building its workforce from within.
Courses are offered onsite at Raytheon and the company has built classrooms for lectures, problem solving, software simulations, and an electronics lab. Raytheon also pays for books, tuition, software, and calculators, and allows employees in the program to adjust their shifts so they can attend the classes, which run two afternoons a week for four hours for 16 weeks.
“Employees are enthusiastic about being in the program and the opportunity to further their careers. Participation takes commitment and hard work but seeing them graduate is a rewarding experience,” says Amy Conway, Raytheon learning administrator.
Developing the Program Was a Collaborative Effort
The program was developed by Northern Essex’s Engineering Department, which is led by Professor Paul Chanley, a former Raytheon engineer, in collaboration with managers and engineers from Raytheon.
Chanley says that the beauty of the Test B Technician Program is that “Students can take the certificate to further their education.” All credits in the program transfer into the college’s Associate Degree in Engineering Science-Technology Option, which leads to greater mobility in the electronics industry and transfers to a bachelor’s in engineering technology.
“We encourage students to continue on, and many do,” says Chanley, who is also one of the program’s primary instructors.
The program which can be completed with a minimum of 29-credit hours focuses on electronic theory and includes hands-on laboratory experience. “There is always a waiting list within the company,” says Chanley.
Balancing Full-Time Work, Family, and College is Challenging
Sarath Men of Methuen is currently enrolled in the Test B Technician Program. He will graduate in May, and has already committed to continue with the Test A Technician Program in the fall.
Men started at Raytheon as an assembler in 2012, and he enrolled in the program because he was looking to advance in his career.
Married with two young children and, he adds, a puppy, Men admits that the program is challenging. “We all work full-time and most of us have kids. It’s non-stop,” he says. “But we’ve made this commitment to go to work and better ourselves.
When in school, Men works his shift from 5:30 am to 2 pm and then starts his four hours of classes at 2:30 pm. The evening is spent with his family and then, once his kids are in bed, he hits the books.
In January, Men was promoted to a new position, based on his enrollment in the program and an interview with company engineers.
“I’m very appreciative of the opportunity Raytheon is giving us,” says Men. “They make it convenient to go to school.”
Kathy Ronaldson, program manager, Northern Essex’s Center for Corporate & Community Education, calls the partnership “an excellent example of an employer developing the skills they need for the future in their employees.”
The program was custom-made for Raytheon based on their needs, she says. When the initial Test B Technician Program was a success, Raytheon decided to expand the program and create the Test A Technician option.
Over the years, Raytheon has contracted with Northern Essex for other employee training, including math courses, according to Ronaldson.
Employers interested in learning more about corporate training offered by Northern Essex are invited to contact Ronaldson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 978 556-3066.