A $23.5 million competitive federal grant will help Boeing scale up an apprenticeship program here that could ultimately create a recruitment pipeline for hundreds of cybersecurity and other tech jobs across its St. Louis area facilities.
The grant, part of the $500 million Good Jobs Challenge funded through last year’s American Rescue Plan Act, was awarded to the Washington Technology Industry Association Workforce Institute, known as “Apprenti.” Boeing, which has much of its commercial operations in Washington state and its defense programs based here, and Amazon Web Services are the two employers working with the Seattle-area nonprofit.
Boeing says it will focus its cybersecurity apprentice hiring in three locations: Seattle, Huntsville, Alabama and St. Louis.
The grant will help Boeing, Amazon and Apprenti build apprenticeship training models. According to the grant application, Boeing’s “long-term strategy is to create an industry recognized credential for the aerospace sector” that can be used by its vendors and other companies in need cybersecurity talent, a field where demand is growing quickly.
“Boeing has committed to 1,000 technical apprentices through 2025 across our business that will span multiple technology job and skill areas as we expand,” said Chris Schuller, Boeing’s Technical Apprenticeship Program lead.
Boeing plans to use the program to reskill internal staff for hard-to-fill positions as well as recruit new talent, with a focus on “underrepresented” groups such as women and people of color.
The cybersecurity apprenticeship program offers on-the-job pay, starting at a $45,000 minimum and offering step increases as the curriculum is completed, rising to $60,000 as the program is 80% complete, according to the grant submission. Boeing cybersecurity workers have a midpoint salary of $75,000, according to the application.
Earlier this year, Boeing said it had 14,000 job openings across the company, with over 800 openings in cybersecurity and software development, according to the grant application.
Boeing just launched its “Technical Apprenticeship Program” three months ago, and it has already hired six people locally and 13 across its national footprint. The grant will help it expand the program to ramp up recruitment.
By 2024, Boeing hopes to have a system in place to offer to other employers, charging a fee so “staffing and related program expenses sustainable beyond the grant to ensure the system’s survival as a service,’ according to the grant application.
Boeing’s roughly 15,000 employees in the St. Louis metro area building fighter jets and other equipment for the U.S. military, work the company says necessitates cybersecurity services here.
With such a massive, high-skilled workforce, Boeing has a history of apprenticeship programs here. It has long worked with St. Louis Community College’s Workforce Innovation Center, where many students participate in the Boeing Pre-Employment Training Program, and it has worked with the college to expand on-the-job apprenticeships.
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