Boeing has awarded over $1.1 million towards the expansion of two advanced manufacturing workforce development initiatives developed by NextFlex, America’s Flexible Hybrid Electronics Manufacturing Innovation Institute. Spanning nine ecosystems, the funding will increase access to both the FlexFactor and Flex2Future programs for high school and college-aged students in the following geographic areas: Albuquerque, N.M.; Montgomery, Ala.; the Capital Region of Virginia; Washington D.C.; Norfolk, Va.; Houston, Texas; Phoenix, Ariz.; St. Petersburg, Fla.; and Philadelphia, Pa.
The selected regions serve as critical manufacturing hubs for Boeing, but also satisfy an important goal of reaching students from underserved and underrepresented communities, particularly women, minority, and military-connected students. The expansion of these workforce development programs is projected to reach an estimated 7,000 students over the next three years through NextFlex’s two flagship programs: FlexFactor, an awareness-building program that familiarizes high school students with the technology and vast range of professional opportunities encompassed in the advanced manufacturing sector; and Flex2Future, a “learn-and-earn” program where community college students work while learning skills that are immediately applicable.
“At Boeing, we are committed to helping students of all backgrounds achieve their full potential,” said Leanne Caret, executive vice president at The Boeing Company. “Through innovative partnerships with organizations like NextFlex, we are helping to prepare military-connected students – especially those students historically underrepresented in STEM fields – to be career-ready, by improving how they learn and teaching them the skills they need to be successful in the workforce of the future.”
The partnership between Boeing and NextFlex builds on a prior successful deployment of the FlexFactor program in Huntsville, Alabama. Implemented in 2018, the Huntsville launch was the second national expansion of the FlexFactor program, which was initiated in Northern California and expanded to Elyria, Ohio shortly thereafter.
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The rapid success of the program has been validated by extensive surveying of the 8,500+ FlexFactor participants to date. Among other things, national research has documented that 66 percent of student participants indicate that they are more interested in STEM, advanced manufacturing and business and entrepreneurship-related fields after completing the program.
“Our workforce development programs focus on developing a coordinated STEM and manufacturing talent pipeline, beginning with recruitment in K-12 grades,” said NextFlex Executive Director Dr. Malcolm Thompson. “We’re ecstatic to continue partnering with Boeing as our network of workforce development initiatives continues to grow and leverage important learnings and best practices being shared from across the national professional learning community that we have established.”
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