Training day

Kuster, Donchess push 10-week ‘boot camp’ to prep for jobs

Staff photo by DAMIEN FISHER Nashua Community College student Ariel Matos, 19, practices bonding microscopic wires to a modular board used for computer components as part of his training in the Microelectronics Boot Camp.

NASHUA – Alicia Acevedo had worked in manufacturing for more than 20 years before her job was moved to Mexico, and she was left to sort out a new future.

“I went back to the drawing board,” she said.

Acevedo, 51, is now set to graduate in a few weeks from the Microelectronics Boot Camp program at Nashua Community College. She’s one of about 10 students in the course who are getting ready for jobs at companies such as BAE, SemiGen and other area businesses.

“I needed to change my skills,” she said.

Jonathan Mason, of NCC, said the students work from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. five days a week for 10 weeks to get the skills that companies want. Some of the students are juggling part-time work while they attend the boot camp, and others are getting assistance through the New Hampshire Unemployment Office.

Once done, every student is guaranteed an interview with BAE, though many other companies are coming to speak to the prospective employees. The boot camp has a 95 percent employment rate for the graduates, with jobs starting between $17 and $25 per hour.

It is this type of success that U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster wants to see continue. Kuster is introducing a bill in Congress to expand tax credits for companies that take part in training programs such as NCC’s boot camp. More training will mean more jobs in fields that pay well, she said.

“We know there are job openings, and we know there are people willing and able,” she said. “So we have got to close that skills gap.”

The bill, supported by the New England Council, would encourage employers to partner with community colleges, as well as career and technical training schools, to find in-demand skills within that particular community. There is also a separate credit within the measure for direct training costs as part of a licensed apprenticeship program or educational partnership.

Mayor Jim Donchess said the program will attract people to Nashua and keep them here as contributing members of the community. It’s another reason why Donchess is a fan of the college.

“They’re educating for jobs we want here in Nashua,” he said.

Kuster’s bill comes as the budget proposed by President Donald Trump would cut $1 billion, or 40 percent, from federal job training programs. In New Hampshire, that cut would mean almost 400 fewer people would have job training available to them.

The tax credit bill Kuster is introducing provides incentives for companies to partner with institutions such as NCC to create job-training programs, Mason said. That means there would be more programs like the boot camp, helping more people like Acevedo.

“This is the perfect setting for me,” she said.