New AFRL pilot program to recruit and retain future engineers

  • Published
  • By Stacey Geiger
  • 88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – To diversify the workforce and replace employees nearing retirement in the Air Force, a new pilot program was developed to recruit young talent in the local area.   

Leadership, Experience, Growing Apprenticeships Committed to Youth, LEGACY, is a new program that began in November 2016 and was created to spark student interest in science, technology, engineering and math and in turn become part of the Air Force workforce.  

“We want to build a diverse talent pool and get students interested in STEM,” said Justin Earley, LEGACY program manager. “Since they are still young and do not know what they want to do when they get older, we can try to inspire them to go into STEM related career fields.”

Unlike other STEM programs that are geared toward high school students, the LEGACY program is broken out into three phases that are designed for students to begin the program in the sixth grade and continue until completion of their bachelor’s degree. The three phases are Craftsman, for students in the sixth through tenth grade (15 years old); Junior Apprentice, tenth (16 years old) through twelfth grade and Apprentice for college level students.

“If we start at a younger age, we can try to keep them interested and have them keep coming back every year,” Earley said. “The idea is if we can get them inspired and retain them, we can build them up to be a part of the future workforce for the Air Force.”

Two Craftsman camps were held this summer offering students hands-on demonstrations, team building projects, and listening to guest engineer speakers discuss their career fields.

Once students are 16 and enter the tenth grade, they will participate in the Junior Apprentice level until high school graduation. Junior Apprentice students will have paid apprenticeships and will learn professional skillsets and build their understanding of current research and how it is being conducted. In addition, STEM mentors will help guide them with college preparation and for the next phase of the LEGACY program.

The final phase of the LEGACY program will begin in 2018 for college level students. Students will sharpen their abilities to multitask, complete research processes and transition into a position in the STEM career field for the Air Force.     

Earley said the LEGACY program will also help move the Air Force workforce diversity needle by reaching out to schools that are underserved and underrepresented in STEM and finding young talented students and give them to opportunity to be exposed to STEM.

“Students do not know if they want to be in a STEM career or cannot be interested in one if they have never heard of it so listening to different engineers exposes them to career possibilities,” Earley said. “Many times when we talk to students, it seems the only ones that know about engineering careers are the ones whose parents are engineers.”

Dr. Amanda Bullock, Wright-Patterson AFB Educational Outreach Office senior engineering specialist and technical advisor for LEGACY said there is a decrease in diversity in STEM and is very passionate in recruiting people into that career field.

“Wright-Patterson AFB is one of the largest bases in the country with one of the largest civilian workforces and our workforce is aging out,” Bullock said. “I was exposed to STEM as a child and that is what helped me go into this career field.”

Bullock said the STEM career is also in need of more female engineers as only 6.8 percent of STEM graduates are women.

“Being a female engineer, I wanted to give back to make sure female students are being exposed to STEM, Bullock said. “If they don’t see it, they can’t be it.”

Jayla Kinsey, a ninth grade student at Stebbins High School in Riverside, Ohio, said her teacher encouraged her to come to the craftsman camp.

“I am interested in aerospace engineering and wanted to come because it can help me with getting into college and give me internship opportunities,” Kinsey said. “During the camp, we went on a tour at the base to see all the career opportunities and I can see myself working here. You can’t go wrong coming here, there will be no negative effects to coming, only positives, you can see all the opportunities and if you don’t want to come back, you still have the experience under your belt.”

LEGACY program manager Nicole Lange, said for her to have gone to school for education, it is exciting for her to see the connections the students are making between what they are doing in camp and the research that is going on in the Air Force.

“We want these students to build their Legacy in the Air Force,” Earley said. 

For additional information on the LEGACY program and other STEM related programs, contact the Wright-Patterson AFB Educational Outreach Office at (937) 656-2273,, or visit their website at