Skilled to Work: Lockheed Martin advanced manufacturing program helps grow workforce in Alabama and Colorado

Five apprentices graduated as part of this most recent cohort in Courtland.

Posted: Nov 14, 2019 9:22 PM
Updated: May 4, 2021 10:45 AM

Starting a new job can require a leap of faith. That was especially true for Jonah Griffin who left the grocery store world to become an advanced manufacturing technician.

"It's been just a constant learning environment, learning about things that I honestly didn’t know. I walked in from a job at Publix,” said Griffin.

AMTAP program by the numbers:

  • Colorado
    • Cohort 1
      • January 25, 2016
      • 8 graduated
    • Cohort 2
      • June 6, 2016
      • 10 graduated
    • Cohort 3
      • September 12, 2016
      • 9 graduated
    • Cohort 4
      • March 6, 2017
      • 10 graduated
    • Cohort 5
      • June 5, 2017
      • 7 graduated
    • Cohort 6
      • August 7, 2017
      • 6 graduated
    • Cohort 7
      • October 9, 2017
      • 9 graduated
    • Cohort 8
      • January 15, 2018
      • 8 graduated
    • Cohort 9
      • March 26, 2018
      • 3 graduated
    • Cohort 10
      • June 18, 2018
      • 5 graduated
    • Cohort 11
      • November 15, 2018
      • 6 graduated
    • Cohort 12
      • January 28, 2019
      • 7 graduated
    • Cohort 13
      • April 22, 2019
      • 9 graduated
    • Cohort 14
      • July 15, 2019
      • 12 graduated
    • Cohort 15
      • September 23, 2019
      • 8 graduated
  • Alabama
    • Cohort 1
      • July 16, 2018
      • 2 graduated
    • Cohort 2
      • September 24, 2018
      • 7 graduated
    • Cohort 3
      • March 11, 2019
      • 5 graduated
    • Cohort 4
      • July 15, 2019
      • 12 graduated
    • Cohort 5
      • October 7, 2019
      • 5 graduated
Lakota Wilson graduates from the AMTAP program on Friday, November 8, 2019, in Courtland, Alabama. He was one of five apprentices to complete the program as part of the fifth cohort. Lakota Wilson graduates from the AMTAP program on Friday, November 8, 2019, in Courtland, Alabama. He was one of five apprentices to complete the program as part of the fifth cohort.

Griffin is one of the five newest technicians at Lockheed Martin’s manufacturing facility in Courtland, Alabama. He and four others graduated on Friday from the company’s Advanced Manufacturing Technician Apprenticeship Program (AMTAP).

AMTAP Program Manager Sarah Turner said the programs openness is one of its calling cards.

"It really varies. One of the things that’s unique to our program is that there’s no experience required. So we’ve seen a variety of people come through with a wide range of backgrounds,” said Turner.

AMTAP began at the Lockheed Martin facility near Denver, Colorado, in January 2016 and was brought to Courtland last summer.

“We found that there was a limited amount of technical talent available around the Courtland site. Therefore we needed to create that talent and create a talent pool for this site,” said Vaughn Redmon, technical development manager for Lockheed Martin Space.

So far, 122 people have graduated from the program with a retention rate of about 75 percent.

Redmon said the company saw quite a bit of interest since launching the training program.

"Right at the beginning, we were very surprised to see that we had roughly 150 people show up at every one of our info sessions. Granted we were looking for smaller numbers than that, but we continue to see those numbers appear,” said Redmon.

Those that were selected, like recent graduate Marcus Harris, said it was a whirlwind experience.

"It was just a lot of information. As soon as one day was over, we would move onto the next thing. It was constantly nonstop. Five weeks went by so fast because it was so much,” said Harris.

Some who went through the program earlier said experience was more than just job training.

“A lot of the things that I went through was things that I never experienced in life: having people to care about you, knowing your superiors want you to succeed and making sure that they’re going to provide you every opportunity for you to succeed,” said Marland Pruitt, a member of the first cohort at the Courtland facility.

Instructors said the program is part of a much larger investment in workforce development.

Last year, University of Alabama graduate and Lockheed Martin President and Chief Executive Officer Marillyn Hewson pledged that the company would create 8,000 apprenticeship opportunities and invest $5 million in vocational and trade programs over the next five years.

That came in response to the establishment of President Trump’s National Council for the American Worker. Hewson is part of its 25-member board.

Redmon said expanding the AMTAP program over the next couple of years will be part of how they get there.

"A large percentage of our current workforce is retirement eligible and we’re going to need to backfill those positions. We'll need to create those types of programs, not only apprenticeships, but co-ops and other pathways for people to come into the company,” said Redmon.

He added that there are plans to expand the program in Colorado and introduce AMTAP to their Florida facility as well.

As these new graduates start their new jobs as full-time AMT’s, they hope others will also take a similar leap to try something new.

"You may think that manufacturing is going to be this really hard labor, but you walk in and, especially with things like FAME and AMTAP, and you see it’s not as hard as people make it out to be. It defies expectations. It really does,” said Redmon.

To learn more about the AMTAP program, click here.

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