Hands-on higher ed

Apprenticeships combine college study with on-the-job training

Raytheon manufacturing employees in North Texas are studying and working toward more advanced roles, under a new U.S. Department of Labor apprenticeship program, which aims to address a critical skills gap and shore up the industry’s future. 

With the fall 2023 semester’s start at Collin College, 17 employees are on a path to certifying their production acumen to assemble, test and install electro-optical systems and microelectronics.

Why it matters:

The cost of education is soaring, and apprenticeships offer an affordable way to earn a college degree while acquiring manufacturing expertise. The program, in addition to addressing the skills gap, also aims to ensure the vitality of manufacturing in North Texas while tapping into local talent.


As full-time employees, the apprentices are eligible for RTX’s Employee Scholar Program, which covers tuition, academic expenses, and books for school and certification programs. Apprentices can also take online courses for flexible learning.

Apprentices at the Allen technical campus of Collin College in North Texas work toward associate degrees in electrical engineering technology or industrial automation & robotics with pathways to bachelor’s degrees.

This training framework combines theoretical knowledge with actual on-the-job experience to create a well-rounded, highly trained workforce ready to contribute to Raytheon and the industry.

By the numbers:

  • According to Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute, the manufacturing skills gap could leave 2.1 million U.S. jobs vacant by 2030, costing $1 trillion.
  • The 17 apprentices are full-time employees, mainly at Raytheon's Expressway site in Dallas. They also spend about eight hours a week taking two classes, mostly on Saturday.
  • In 2022, the Department of Labor system added more than 268,000 apprentices with 99,000 graduating.
  • Apprenticeship training is effective as 93% of apprentices stay employed.

Between the lines:

The apprenticeship program provides hands-on training for three key roles, preparing for career growth within Raytheon:

  • Assembly Technician: Apprentices learn to assemble, modify, and repair electro-optical and electro-mechanical equipment.
  • Precision Assembler: Apprentices assemble mechanical assemblies and microelectronic devices with operators, technicians, and engineers.
  • Test Technician: Apprentices test, troubleshoot, repair, maintain, and install electrical, electromechanical, mechanical, computer, laboratory, and scientific systems and equipment.

Catch up quick:

A forerunner to the North Texas apprenticeship program was Raytheon’s in-house upskilling program in Forest, Mississippi. The program trained 27 assemblers to become test technicians. Forest’s earlier upskilling effort has evolved into a Department of Labor Registered Apprenticeship Program.

In Mississippi, apprentices can attend East Central Community College.

What they're saying:

The apprenticeship program aligns with Raytheon, Collin College and apprentices’ goals.

Apprentice Danny Ramirez says “learning this science of the why and how, behind the what” has motivated him. “I’ve attempted school many times but never finished. How can I hold my kids to a standard I can't meet? I want to break that cycle for my family, children and me,” he said.

Provost Brenden Mesch at Collin College’s Technical Campus calls the apprenticeship program a “terrific example of a partnership that started a long time ago and has continued to flourish.”

Mesch said, “When we partner, we produce employees who are much more equipped to be successful on the job and stay in that industry long-term… I’m excited to be a small part of it, to see some of these life-changing stories play out.”

Apprentices get practical on-the-job experience, said Robert Flores, Raytheon Apprenticeship Program manager. “They’re not just learning in the classroom; they’re applying what they learn on the job, which is vital,” he said. “From a business perspective, Raytheon gets skilled employees, higher productivity, greater employee retention, reduced turnover costs, customized training and a stronger future in manufacturing,” he said. “The community, state and nation benefit from skilled and ready industrialized labor.”

The program matches apprentices with mentors, he added. “This is about developing talented, confident workers ready for the challenges ahead, not merely passing classes,” Flores said.

What’s next:

Raytheon will add optics manufacturing technician roles to the North Texas program, and Mississippi will include assembly technicians.