Aerojet Rocketdyne AMF team member Stephen Phillips, a member of the first Aerojet Rocketdyne – AIDT class

Aerojet Rocketdyne AMF team member Stephen Phillips, a member of the first Aerojet Rocketdyne – AIDT class

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Aerojet Rocketdyne’s collaboration with the state of Alabama on a pre-employment training program to fill job openings at the company’s fast-growing Advanced Manufacturing Facility (AMF) in the Rocket City has resulted in the hiring of more qualified, diverse and local job candidates.

The state-of-the-art AMF, which opened in 2019, makes composite solid rocket motor casings and other propulsion hardware for U.S. defense and space programs. It was specifically designed to support future opportunities, including the next-generation Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, hypersonics and a variety of missile defense systems.

To keep up with demand driven by these and other programs, Aerojet Rocketdyne leveraged a training program provided by AIDT (Alabama’s workforce training agency), which provides workforce development services to expand economic opportunities in the state. These services include recruiting and pre-employment training tailored to the specific needs of corporate partners.

“Having an exceptional workforce is critical for mission success,” Aerojet Rocketdyne Senior Vice President of Defense Tyler Evans said. “The AIDT program is one of many examples of our successful partnership with the state of Alabama. The Aerojet Rocketdyne team in Huntsville is talented, diverse and growing, and programs like AIDT help us ensure that our workforce remains top-notch.”

“Aerojet Rocketdyne began working with AIDT in 2018 to develop a 60-hour pre-employment training program designed to prepare recruits for jobs as composite manufacturing technicians,” said Darin Holcombe, Human Resources manager for Aerojet Rocketdyne’s Talent and Organization Development.

Taught by Aerojet Rocketdyne managers, AIDT staff and subject matter experts, the course prepares trainees to hit the floor running moreso than if they were hired outside the program.

AIDT also assists with recruiting and interviewing promising candidates for the program,” said Renee Knight, Human Resources business partner for Aerojet Rocketdyne’s AMF. “We work with an AIDT project manager to select who we think should be a part of the class,” she said.

Held at night so as not to disrupt trainees’ daytime work schedules, the classes begin with the basics of composite manufacturing and become more specialized along the way. This helps Aerojet Rocketdyne managers match trainees to the jobs for which they are best suited, Knight added

To date, two AIDT-Aerojet Rocketdyne sessions have been completed, resulting in 25 new hires who are already making valuable contributions to the company.

“Within 12 to 18 months over 70% of the AIDT hires were promoted to the next level,” Knight said.

One in particular, Stephen Phillips, who was a member of Aerojet Rocketdyne’s first AIDT class, was promoted during this time to a Composite Manufacturing Technician 2, Knight added.

Both Knight and Holcombe said the AIDT program has also increased the number of women and minorities in rocket manufacturing positions. “We are proud to have an inclusive workforce at the AMF that represents our community and provides diversity of thought and skills,” said Knight.

“The AIDT program could be a model for pre-employment training initiatives at Aerojet Rocketdyne facilities in other states,” Holcombe said.

“There is an effort to look at apprenticeship programs in our other locations using federal grants directed toward manufacturing engineering,” Holcombe explained. “We are paying attention to how well it’s gone in Alabama.”