Students complete an internship during their last year and graduate with more than a diploma. Equipped with real-world experience, certifications – and possibly even a security clearance – they can go directly into the field and work while they earn a college degree.
And that’s where companies like Raytheon Technologies come in.
Since ASCTE’s opening in August 2020, the company has supported the school, both as a foundation donor and through the time and expertise of its employees.
“Raytheon talent brings ‘boots-on-the-ground’ knowledge…professional disposition, teaming, cyber and engineering so students can see it in practical terms,” Hodges said.
The school has 71 students and will add 85 freshmen, or “level 1,” students in the next academic year, which starts in August and ends in May.
For science classes, students start in physics, then take chemistry, followed by biotechnology.
Other classes include technical writing, cryptology and economics. Teachers meet and spend up to three hours a week analyzing and planning coursework.
“The engineering teacher knows what the cyber teacher is teaching and the language teacher will then connect what she’s teaching to cyber, engineering and history,” Hodges said. “None of it is disjointed, and every player is designing the curriculum.”
Mentoring and internship
Students will finish coursework in three years and intern in industry during their final year. The first class will participate in a 12-week internship, with plans to expand that to 24 weeks in the future. Some internships may evolve into paid apprenticeships.
Students placed at secure locations like military installations and defense contractors will apply for security clearances.
When students reach their junior year, or level 3, they are assigned a mentor from industry. Raytheon Technologies will mentor the first group of students starting in August 2022.
“Engineers love to share their experiences,” said Lisa Bates, a senior principle systems engineer at Raytheon Missiles & Defense and a mentor at ASCTE. “We love to show others what we know.”
Working in the field alongside industry experts, students learn topics not typically covered in a classroom – how to innovate, how to apply for a patent, how to be a thought leader.
“It’s so important for people who have been down that path to show others,” Bates said. “Without leadership and mentorship, it’s almost insurmountable.”
A new campus
As part of its investment in STEM education programs, Raytheon Technologies donated $4 million to ASCTE to help build a new facility.
The school’s temporary location is at Oakwood University and in 2022, it will relocate to its new campus in the heart of Huntsville’s Cummings Research Park, near the U.S. Army Redstone Arsenal. The new school will have capacity for up to 500 students.
To learn more, visit ASCTE.