Pictured above, left to right on front row: Jason Appleton, Makayla Chambers, Angela Smith, Lt. Gov. Ainsworth, Mayor Peebles, Travis Kelly, Perla Chavez, Tabitha Pace. Left to right on back row: Vaughn Redmon, Brandon Toya, Nick Zicchino, Caleb Lane.
Perla Chavez and Makayla Chambers took different paths to completion of Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Manufacturing Technician Apprenticeship Program (AMTAP) in Courtland, Alabama.
Perla is a recent high school graduate and “techie” who started taking part in robotics and rocketry competitions in middle school. Makayla was a full-time art student pursuing a graphic design degree who worked delivering pizzas. Both women, however, had a common goal – to find a rewarding career doing something they feel passionate about.
They decided to learn how to build spacecraft components.
On Aug. 19, they joined two other classmates at their AMTAP cohort graduation, ready to start working as full-time technicians at Lockheed Martin’s Courtland facility. Guests include the lieutenant governor Alabama Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth, who recognized Lockheed Martin and AMTAP’s contribution to the state’s workforce and economy.
AMTAP apprentices learn how to build electronics used in space operations, including soldering, cable harness building and conformal coating application for electronic components. Participants receive pay and benefits as well as skill certification. Successful graduates like Perla and Makayla also have the opportunity to work full-time at Lockheed Martin.
From Rocket Contests to Rocket Building
The head of the tech school where Perla was studying drafting after graduating in June asked students if they would be interested in AMTAP. “I had been on the rocketry team for my school for four years. So it tied into there, and because aerospace has always interested me. So I decided to give it a shot,” she says.
The recent Mars missions like InSight helped inspire Perla’s interest in aerospace and building rockets for her high school rocketry team, which competed in several national contests. “I like the challenge of going against the elements and having to push forward even if conditions are against you.”
Perla, whose high school rocketry team was mainly made up of girls, says she’s been impressed by the support for and visibility of women in STEM careers at Lockheed Martin. “When we took our first tour, one of the things I realized that there’s a really good balance between men and women.”
Perla would like to work on a Mars mission someday. “I definitely see myself here for years to come, and I would love to be involved in the Orion program that’s going to take us back to the Moon and establish a gateway to Mars.”
The Art of Spacecraft
Makayla heard about the program from a friend who is a Lockheed Martin technician. “I wanted to try something new,” she says. “With an art degree it can be difficult to find a good job, and with Lockheed Martin I knew I would have a lot of opportunities.”
AMTAP apprentices don’t need experience in the electronics field, but the program does look for people who have good eye-hand coordination and fine manual dexterity. As an artist and a pianist, Makayla made sure to emphasize her talents in those areas in her application and interview process.
Those skills were essential, especially during the cable-building segment of the six-week program. Like Perla, Makayla calls it the “most challenging and most rewarding” part of their training. “I went in never having done that before and it was difficult, but I kept reminding myself that if I could continue to work hard and learn all the information, I would succeed and I did.”
AMTAP was “intense, but it’s been very rewarding,” Makayla says. In the future, she hopes to progress in her Space career. She’s considering completing her art degree or even pursuing an aerospace engineering degree. “What I’ve learned in AMTAP, I loved,” she says. “I’ve looked into the prerequisites, and a lot of the classes involve what I’m currently learning and will help me as a technician.”
Lockheed Martin’s AMTAP is a U.S. Department of Labor Registered Apprenticeship. The program prepares candidates for careers in space operations in Courtland and Littleton, Colorado. Learn more about AMTAP here.
Technical apprenticeship programs like AMTAP are part of Lockheed Martin’s enterprise-wide workforce development initiative. The initiative, begun in 2018, aims to create 8,000 work-based learning opportunities and to invest $50 million in educational programs by 2023 across the United States. At the beginning of 2021, Lockheed Martin was well on its way to that goal, having created more than 5,300 new workforce development opportunities and invested nearly $7 million into our STEM and Vocational Scholarship Programs.