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Technicians graduate Lockheed Martin advanced manufacturing apprenticeship program at company’s Courtland facility

Lockheed Martin last week held its Advanced Manufacturing Technician Apprenticeship Program (AMTAP) cohort graduation. Graduates are now prepared to start working as full-time technicians at the company’s Courtland facility.

Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth was in attendance for the graduation where he recognized Lockheed Martin and AMTAP’s contribution to the state’s workforce and economy.

AMTAP apprentices learn how to build electronics used in space operations, including soldering, cable harness building and conformal coating application for electronic components. Participants receive pay and benefits as well as skill certification.

Ainsworth expressed the importance of workforce development in the aerospace field.

“We are very fortunate to have a significant aerospace influence in Alabama,” said Ainsworth. “With the growth we are seeing in tie industry, the opportunities for the future are endless. We need to upskill and strengthen our workforce and support our aerospace industry so that they can continue to provide good jobs, long-term investments, and a positive impact to our state for decades to come.”

He concluded, “Lockheed Martin is a great community partner and the AMPTAP program is a shining example and definitely a great return on investment for Alabama”

Perla Chavez and Makayla Chambers took different paths to completion of Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Manufacturing Technician Apprenticeship Program (AMTAP) in Courtland, Alabama.

Chavez is a recent high school graduate and “techie” who began taking part in robotics and rocketry competitions in middle school. Chambers was a full-time art student pursuing a graphic design degree who worked delivering pizzas. Both women, however, had a common goal – to find a rewarding career
doing something they feel passionate about.

They decided to learn how to build spacecraft components.

The head of the tech school where Chavez studied drafting after graduating in June asked students if they would be interested in AMTAP.

“I had been on the rocketry team for my school for four years, so it tied into there, and because aerospace has always interested me – I decided to give it a shot,” she said.

The recent Mars missions like InSight helped inspire Chavez’s interest in aerospace and building rockets for her high school rocketry team, which competed in several national contests.

“I like the challenge of going against the elements and having to push forward even if conditions are against you,” she added.

Chavez, whose high school rocketry team was mainly made up of girls, says she’s been impressed by the support for and visibility of women in STEM careers at Lockheed Martin.

“When we took our first tour, one of the things I realized is that there’s a really good balance between men and women,” she stated.

Chavez sees her career at Lockheed Martin being one of longevity. She said she would like to work on a Mars mission someday.

“I definitely see myself here for years to come, and I would love to be involved in the Orion program that’s going to take us back to the Moon and establish a gateway to Mars,” she outlined.

Chambers heard about the program from a friend who is a Lockheed Martin technician, where she said she could expand her potential.

“I wanted to try something new,” she said. “With an art degree it can be difficult to find a good job, and with Lockheed Martin I knew I would have a lot of opportunities.”

The company says AMTAP apprentices do not need experience in the electronics field, but the program does look for people who have good eye-hand coordination and fine manual dexterity. As an artist and a pianist, Makayla made sure to emphasize her talents in those areas in her application and interview process. Those skills were essential, especially during the cable-building segment of the six-week program.

Like Chavez, Chambers calls it the “most challenging and most rewarding” part of their training.

Chambers stated, “I went in never having done that before and it was difficult, but I kept reminding myself that if I could continue to work hard and learn all the information, I would succeed and I did.”

AMTAP was “intense, but it’s been very rewarding,” she added.

In the future, she hopes to progress in her space career. She’s considering completing her art degree or even pursuing an aerospace engineering degree.

“What I’ve learned in AMTAP, I loved,” she advised. “I’ve looked into the prerequisites, and a lot of the classes involve what I’m currently learning and will help me as a technician.”

Dylan Smith is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSmithAL

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