CONCORD, N.H. — Finding workers to fill jobs is a big issue in New Hampshire. The labor market isn’t getting any easier for businesses, so I spoke with one of New Hampshire’s major employers, BAE Systems, about how they’re handling it.
BAE has 6,559 employees at its New Hampshire locations in Nashua, Merrimack, Hudson, and Manchester. They work in its electronic systems sector, producing commercial and defense electronics for things like flight and engine control, as well as electronic warfare and surveillance.
As of September, there were only 28 workers for 100 open jobs in New Hampshire, according to data from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
So BAE created an apprenticeship program with Nashua Community College. Participants are paid to complete the two-year program and guaranteed a job at BAE after graduating.
Vanessa Coleman, who lives in Manchester, was in the first graduating class, completing the program in July. “It was very exciting,” she said.
Before the program, Coleman worked as a chef but was furloughed during the pandemic. She took that time to complete her high school education. She found the apprenticeship program while she was looking for a new job. Her mom worked in manufacturing, and she thought it was a promising career path.
“I was really hungry to learn,” she said.
Participants complete five weeks of classwork at Nashua Community College, where they learn how to use equipment, like microscopes, to tell if tiny electronic parts meet strict quality standards so they can become quality inspectors.
“It’s always been a little bit of a challenge, finding really good talent to come in and fill those roles,” said Brian Svoboda, the vice president of quality for BAE Systems. The company employs 150 to 200 quality inspectors, and they have to hire to replace people who are retiring. Plus, Svoboda said, the company is growing.
He said the apprenticeship program - which typically has 5 to 10 participants - has helped fill those gaps.
Svoboda said people usually drop out during the training or they end up staying at BAE for many years.
“We learn quickly if it’s not a good fit,” he said.
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