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May 2017 • SMT Magazine 57 towards the end for employers to come in and actually interview with our graduates and es- sentially offer jobs to our graduates. By the time they graduate, they can transition almost im- mediately into an employer's internship or on- the-job training program and get paid during this whole timeframe. So far we have trained over 200 veterans in the last three or four years of the program. A lot of our graduates have gone to Lockheed Martin and they're working in the space division. I just heard today that one of our veterans who graduated three years ago and worked in assembly at Lockheed Mar- tin was just promoted to a production planner. Shaughnessy: Wow, that's great. Dill: It's a really great success story, but I've been told that Lockheed Martin is experiencing about a 92% retention rate with our graduates, so that means our screening processes in the front end and the communication with our students are at least positioning them for a longer-term ca- reer path. In a nutshell, that's our program. Shaughnessy: You may have seen our hiring sur- vey last month. Over half of the respondents said that they're hiring. A lot of managers here at APEX say they can't find enough qualified people. Are you seeing this? Dill: Absolutely. We have employers contact- ing us every day who have heard about the pro- gram, looking in some desperation for a solu- tion. Our STEM programs are helping, but that's more of a futuristic solution. We need some- thing more immediate to help fill some of these gaps. It's a real challenge, definitely. We hear it all over the nation, wherever we travel. Shaughnessy: I heard one company promises new engineers a Tesla. It's almost full employment, I guess. Dill: We've heard of folks who are maybe in their graduate year of tech school or university be- ing offered such wages that some will just leave school and start working right away as opposed to finishing their degree programs. There's so much demand out there. It's tough, but the main thing we're trying to get across to students, to their parents, and to those who aren't familiar with this indus- try, is that it is a very clean industry. There are all kinds of opportunities in advanced manu- facturing, and not just electronics, but machin- ing and other types of advanced manufactur- ing. It's a huge opportunity and unfortunately a lot of our younger folks haven' t been exposed to that yet. In my generation, we grew up being ex- posed, even during middle school and high school, to some of the trade skills that are need- ed out there, and exposed to manufacturing, which a lot of our younger folks haven't experi- enced yet. So we're trying to get to their parents and to them to let them know that there are op- portunities. You don't need to go into retail and fast food and these other jobs. That's a longer-term solution. We need to work with our military veterans to make sure they're aware of the opportunities. They de- serve it. They served our great nation, and we do all we can at Blackfox to help promote that. With the new administration promoting more manufacturing in the US, the demand will be even higher! Shaughnessy: That sounds like a really beneficial program, Allen. Best of luck going forward. Dill: Thanks, Andy. SMT BLACKFOX PROGRAM TRAINS VETS FOR MANUFACTURING JOBS " In my generation, we grew up being exposed, even during middle school and high school, to some of the trade skills that are needed out there, and exposed to manufactur- ing, which a lot of our younger folks haven't experienced yet. "

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