When the team at the University of Southern California Center for Economic Development (CED) reviewed the proposal for a pre-apprenticeship program, submitted by West Los Angeles College (WLAC) in partnership with the South Bay Workforce Investment Board (SBWIB), they quickly recognized its potential in addressing one of the manufacturing industry’s greatest challenges – finding and attracting a qualified workforce.
The proposal was to be part of the Managed Career Pipeline Pilot Program, a CED-led Advanced Manufacturing Partnership for Southern California (AMP SoCal) initiative to strategically invest more than $336,000 in available federal funds toward workforce development.
WLAC, in partnership with SBWIB, became one of three separate AMP SoCal Managed Career Pipeline grant awardees in April 2016, and the development of the Aero-Flex Pre-Apprenticeship (Aero-Flex) began. Over time, SBWIB became lead, and the program has advanced into what it is today.
Aero-Flex is an employer-driven pre-apprenticeship framework in engineering that meets the workforce development needs common to the aerospace and advanced manufacturing industry. Partnering employers are able to flex the curriculum to their needs, build their workforce pipeline, receive funding to support training and recruitment and have access to a pool of talented job seekers ready to work. The program timeframe is 6-12 weeks and consists of work readiness training, industry specific occupational skills training and on-the-job work-based learning, provided by Aero-Flex member employers.
The program is not just beneficial for employers. Students receive an industry-recognized stackable credential, and the opportunity to advance to employment, complete college and/or enter into a registered apprenticeship. Membership into the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) is also included, providing them access to SME mentor programs, SME Connect, scholarships, competitions and more. Students who complete the program can also earn qualified credentials to add to their college application and resume. Additionally, students will be provided $500 stipends for participating and successfully completing the program.
SBWIB partnered with Northrop Grumman, and applied the Aero-Flex model to the aerospace company’s existing High School Involvement Partnership (HIP) program. Among the 23 youth enrolled in HIP, 20 enlisted in the SBWIB’s pilot “earn and learn” Aero-Flex Pre-Apprenticeship in Engineering. The student’s received 12 weeks of hands-on job training and work experience with individual HIP internship mentors, they were provided in-class and online work readiness training through SBWIB’s Blueprint for Workplace Success class, along with Tooling U-SME’s technical curriculum customized to meet Northrop Grumman’s focus on Health and Safety.
On May 25, SBWIB and its Aero-Flex partners welcomed the first graduates from Northrop Grumman’s Spring 2017 HIP program and concluded the Aero-Flex pilot.
In June 2017, SBWIB was awarded $240,000 by the California Workforce Development Board to continue developing and growing Aero-Flex for more employers, students and regions. The SBWIB is expecting to enroll up to 100 Aero-flex Pre-Apprentices with this funding. Program expansion will later include post-secondary students, veterans, returning service personnel and other under-served or under-employed populations.
Current Aero-Flex partners include El Camino College, West Los Angeles College, Tooling U-SME, Training Funding Partners and AMP SoCal. Some of the employer partners include Northrop Grumman, L-3 Communications, Magnetika, Impresa Aerospace, Space Vector, Ten Tech, Space Vector, Verisurf and Zodiac Aerospace.