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September 2016 • SMT Magazine 21 THE BLACKFOX ADVANCED MANUFACTURING PROGRAM FOR MILITARY VETERANS of this program. Today, we have over a dozen of Colorado's top employers partnering in this program! During this whole process, the employer that we work with has an opportunity to come in and meet with the veterans and interview with them. They can start the process running in parallel with the training for background checks and all the other things they require. By the time the veteran graduates, they're ready to go to work. Richard Toya, manager of the Lockheed Mar- tin-Blackfox Partnership, and a veteran who has been with Lockheed Martin since 2008 had this to say about the program: "The goal is to create and maintain a top-of- the-notch talent pipeline for Lockheed Martin Space Systems, for our Electronics Manufactur- ing Facility. The aerospace industry is growing very rapidly here in Colorado and we reached out to Blackfox to customize a program with a good curriculum to develop the talent we need for our critical electronics assembly work." At the program's inception, Lockheed says it found that the Denver manufacturing pool wasn't big or deep, but noted that there were 500 people per month coming out of the mil- itary in Colorado needing to transition to ci- vilian life. The firm made a decision to focus on training veterans in the electronics certifica- tion needed for its space programs. Some 65% of those entering the program are veterans. Graduates of the five-week program come out with nine Blackfox skillset certifications, known in the industry as IPC certifications. While several are needed for work in the Lock- heed Martin EMF, others are marketable across other manufacturing categories outside aero- space. "We'd love to keep every graduate, if not at Lockheed Martin, then within the robust aero- space industry here in Colorado," said Toya. "But the certifications are mobile for up to two years with the employee and these skill sets are very marketable across the country." Since 2013, over 120 people have graduat- ed from the five-week Blackfox program, which is funded through state and federal training grants. There is no cost to the veteran and there is no cost to the employer. If graduates don't go to Lockheed, they go to other aerospace compa- nies into communications or work on weather satellites. Two thirds of graduates work at Lock- heed Martin's Waterton Canyon EMF, an 85% retention rate. Among them is Johnny Grant, who separated from the Army in 2002 and jumped at the training chance. "I went to the workforce center in mid-2013 to see what options there were. I went past my allotted time with Uncle Sam to use it at col- lege and the workforce counselors at the De- partment of Labor told me about the program," said Grant. "It didn't cost me anything as a vet- eran, as long as I fulfilled the program. Every- thing is provided by Blackfox and it was all paid for by the workforce center." Colorado Workforce Centers are aware that those attending such intensive programs are of- ten between jobs and struggle with living ex- penses during the program. "They even gave us King Soopers gas cards that we could use for groceries or fuel," said Grant. "When we got short during the cur- riculum and we needed a little bit of help, we got it." EMF technician retention rates are improv- ing at Lockheed Martin. Prior to the program's Figure 1: Participants engage in a training and certification class at the Blackfox Training Institute. Certifications are good for up to two years and reflect industry-wide production standards. (Photos courtesy of Blackfox Training Institute.)

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