A new job training model

A new model for job training combines a curriculum designed by a private company, online tutorials and four weeks of community college classes, writes Ed Sector’s Kevin Carey.

Joe Kitterman’s company, 180 Skills, has partnered with Boeing and Edmonds Community College, in the northern suburbs of Seattle, to teach airplane manufacturing skills. The 12-week program starts with online classes designed by 180 Skills.

In the first eight weeks, students work full time through self-paced courses, learning core concepts in manufacturing processes, terms of art, and the kinds of machines used in Boeing plants. Virtual simulations developed by 180 Skills teach students exactly how to use sophisticated manufacturing equipment.

Students sit for a series of proctored exams, and if they pass with a score of at least 90 percent, they earn two technical certificates. Then they move on to a final four weeks of live instruction conducted by Edmonds. The whole course costs $4,800, and students emerge with 27.5 college credits. In the first year of the program, which started in 2010, the vast majority of enrollees graduated and moved on to job interviews at Boeing.

Kitterman, a former factory manager, had tried in-factory training, but concluded it was expensive and ineffective. Community college classes also didn’t work well for factory workers, who were embarrassed to speak up in class when they didn’t understand the material. Kitterman turned to online training to get workers started on learning new skills before they move on to classroom instruction. The online training also ensures that students are ready to take advantage of the college’s expensive equipment, Carey writes.

Boeing has hired more than 75 percent of the program’s 424 graduates.