Building the STEM talent pipeline: Our partnership with NAF

Working together at the Aguadilla, Puerto Rico site of Pratt & Whitney, a Raytheon Technologies business, they tested software that eventually will be used in aircraft engines. Repeatedly and methodically, they ran real-life data through the programs, examined the readout to look for evidence of gaps in the code, and determined whether they’d uncovered an error or simply run up against a design constraint. 

Feliciano’s software engineering internship was “a transformative experience,” he said. “I feel more mature about decision-making. My mentors were really patient and explained everything really well and step by step.”

Feliciano was among more than 200 high school students from across the United States who completed either on-site internships or virtual career readiness training at Raytheon Technologies through the company’s partnership with the organization NAF, formerly known as the National Academy Foundation. NAF is a strategic partner in Raytheon Technologies’ Connect Up initiative, which is developing a strong, diverse and inclusive pipeline of talent in STEM-related fields.

“The NAF partnership gives students access to high-quality engineering and tech curriculum in high school so they’re prepared for college and careers in those fields,” said Kristy Becerra, director of corporate social responsibility at Raytheon Technologies. “We stay connected to the students, and we invite them to apply to early career opportunities once they graduate college. And if they feel college is not the right choice for them, they have options at our company for high-quality jobs in STEM straight from high school.”

The parts of the partnership

Raytheon Technologies supports NAF’s mission through:

  • Developing and expanding NAF Career Academy programs that are focused on engineering and information technology in high schools around the United States.
  • Appointing Raytheon Technologies employees to serve on local NAF advisory boards.
  • Creating monthly virtual events where NAF students connect with Raytheon Technologies employees, explore STEM subjects, and learn about pathways to careers at the company.
  • Providing the NAF Future Ready Lab – a structured, paid internship for 50 NAF students.
  • NAF Future Ready Engineers, a three-week virtual program where 150 students pair with Raytheon Technologies mentors to learn about real-world engineering concepts, then develop and pitch a project.
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More than 200 NAF students completed internships or career readiness training at Raytheon Technologies in the summer of 2022.

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NAF recognized Raytheon Technologies as its 2022 Internship Champion Award recipient.


Raytheon Technologies offers internships to 50 NAF students through the NAF Future Ready Lab.

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Interns work in areas including software engineering, cybersecurity, design and product delivery.

“Raytheon Technologies has been a true champion for NAF and an exemplar for how companies can shape their future workforce,” said Lisa Dughi, the CEO of NAF. “Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the company’s support has never wavered, and they’ve continued to provide career preparation experiences and internships to connect more young people across the nation.”

Summer jobs in STEM

At the Santa Isabel site of Collins Aerospace, also a Raytheon Technologies business, Krystal Nayeli Vázquez Martínez’s work ethic made an impression during her summer internship.

As one of 13 high school NAF interns on site, the 16-year-old was embedded with the quality engineering materials team, using spreadsheets to reduce unnecessary orders and scrap. She worked so efficiently with the other interns that they finished all their planned work in three weeks, said her supervisor, Omar Sanchez Torres.

“When I completed a task, I asked for more,” said Vázquez Martínez, who wants to study chemical engineering. “I’m the type of person who does not sit still. I loved the experience.” 

Vázquez Martínez emerged as a leader of the team and showed she could solve problems quickly, said Sanchez Torres, a senior supervisor of quality engineering.

“That’s the idea of this type of project – we are preparing the engineers of the future,” he said. “We see in this internship that there is a good bunch of students who have the ability and desire to change this world”.

NAF students Camila Perez, Daynaliz Mejias, Vitoria Suarez, Juliany Morciglio, Jared Portalatin, Jean-Carlo Feliciano and Jadiel Hernandez completed on-site internships at the Aguadilla, Puerto Rico site of Pratt & Whitney.

In East Hartford, Connecticut, Lauren Gotimer supervised three NAF interns working remotely in product delivery at Pratt & Whitney. Two have already said they want to return next year, and one plans to save for a car to get to and from the site every day, she said.

“We’ve very possibly helped shape what they’re going to do,” said Gotimer, deputy production chief for the PW800 engine program at Pratt & Whitney. “The fact that they want to be at Pratt & Whitney – to me, that’s a win.” 

In her second summer supervising NAF interns, she sees how participating in the program benefits both the students and their mentors.

“Internships give them a stronger foundation to start a career here,” Gotimer said. “They also give people on my team practice to be a manager. It’s helping our talent pipeline for the team as a whole.”

Feliciano’s supervisor, Jean Carlos Díaz Quiñones, saw a persistence in the teenager that quickly made him part of the team. 

“The way he felt about the work was the way our engineers felt about it,” said Díaz Quiñones, a software engineering manager. “It’s part of being an engineer – you’re going to be solving problems every day of your life. It is inspiring the way that the interns work – that eagerness they have to learn everything. They were coming from high school and giving 100 percent.”

And for Feliciano, his first-ever job could become his future career.

“It was an honor working at Pratt & Whitney,” he said, citing the sense of teamwork and what he found to be a healthy work environment at the Aguadilla site. “I really liked what I saw and what I experienced.”