The seven most recent graduates from the 10-week Microelectronics Boot Camp at Nashua Community College are the 21st group to complete the program begun with the help of BAE Systems five years ago.
Of the nearly 220 graduates so far, about 130 got jobs at BAE, according to the company’s Microelectronics Center Supervisor Suzanne Oliveri.
The program was created as a pipeline of workers that manufacturers like BAE are in dire need of to build the electronic systems for their defense and aviation contracts.
“I would say it’s a constant flow of need,” Oliveri said.
BAE employee Eunice Portillo, originally from Guatemala before moving to New Hampshire as a teenager, went through the program in 2017.
“I was very impressed by BAE Systems’ commitment to the program,” Portillo said in a written statement. “BAE Systems employees visited the class often and really cared about the students. I knew I wanted to work there because of that.”
Five years ago, BAE and NCC created the boot camp to help the company beef up its microelectronic ranks. BAE was involved in creating the curriculum, has had employees involved in the technical instruction and donated about $200,000 worth of initial equipment to the school, according to BAE spokesperson Shelley Walcott.
“Our company is really proud of our collaboration with Nashua Community College,” Walcott said.
Virtually every boot camp graduate since then has been placed in a job somewhere in the microelectronics assembly field, with some employed by Cirtronics in Milford, Mercury Systems in Hudson or Lockheed Martin in Chelmsford, Mass., according to Jonathan Mason, who teaches so-called “soft skills” such as job interviewing, communications and self-improvement.
Every graduate gets a guaranteed interview with BAE Systems.
Most of the graduates completing the course Friday already have a job.
Oliveri said the course curriculum hasn’t changed much since it started, and the types of workers they need remains the same, but the industry is growing at a fast pace.
It’s worked out pretty well for the employees as well. BAE representatives declined to say what they are paying their microelectronic assembly workers, except to say that the pay is competitive.
But Mason said it’s been his experience that graduates end up in jobs that pay anywhere from $18 to $25 per hour, depending on the shift and the company.
The boot camp itself costs $5,500 for the full 10 weeks, according to Walcott. Some students have that covered by grants or scholarships.
Leila Flanders, 18, of Nashua, a recent graduate of Nashua High School North, said she had her program tuition paid for by a Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund grant. She also got additional assistance with everyday life expenses like car payments and groceries from My Turn, Inc., an organization that provides academic and training programs to young people in parts of New Hampshire and Massachusetts.
“I just had a tour,” Flanders said of the BAE facility in Nashua. “It’s a really nice environment … and everyone there is super nice and friendly.”
Flanders originally explored getting into nursing, but after a friend showed her the boot camp, she switched over to microelectronics. She said she’s excited to start her new job at BAE as an entry level assembler, but also plans to continue her education in an engineering field.
Walcott said the company offers a tuition remission benefit to its employees for just such a purpose. Portillo will get her associate degree in engineering later this year, with the help of the company’s reimbursement program. She plans to get her bachelor’s degree and become an aerospace engineer.
While the boot camp does not have an expressed goal of hiring a more diverse workforce, it has attracted workers from diverse backgrounds. Walcott said some of the graduates are in their 60s, making a change in their careers, and others come from as far away as Florida to take the course.
About 25% of the participants are Hispanic, 5.6% are Black or Asian, and more than 32% are women, according to statistics provided by Mason.