Podcast: Emma Vanderhoeven Succeeds Through the Aerospace Pathways Program

Pete Codella Business Elevated Podcast, Talent Ready Utah


Business Elevated Podcast (Episode 12)

This podcast series features business and government leaders discussing what it’s like to live and work in the great state of Utah. This episode includes a conversation between Kimberlee Carlile, director of Talent Ready Utah in the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, and Emma Vanderhoeven, team lead at Boeing.

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Welcome to the Business Elevated Podcast, where we discuss what it’s like to live and work in the great state of Utah. Did you know Utah is frequently ranked the best state for business by Forbes? This podcast is a production of the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development. Thanks for joining the conversation.


Kimberlee Carlile (0:22): Welcome to the Business Elevated podcast. My name is Kimberly Carlile, director of Talent Ready Utah in the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. Talent Ready Utah is an initiative to bring industry and education closer together, and we are excited to talk about one of our legacy Talent Ready Utah programs today, the Utah Aerospace Pathways Program. We have Emma Vanderhoeven with us. Excited to hear about her experience throughout the program. Welcome to the podcast, Emma.

Emma Vanderhoeven (0:55): Hi, thanks.

Kimberlee Carlile (0:57): We actually started the Utah Aerospace Pathways (UAP) Program in 2014. The program is meant to be a training opportunity specifically for high school students to expose them to the aerospace industry here in the state of Utah. In 2014, when we announced the program, we had a lot of companies that were looking to build their talent pipeline here in this state. Those participating companies include Boeing, Hexcel, Janicki Industries, Northrop Grumman, Parker Aerospace, Albany Engineered Composites and MSC Aerospace. So we have a good amount of companies that have been supporting this program through the years. The program basically consists of high school students participating in two courses that the industry companies have helped to write and work on with our partners at the State Board of Education.

Then, the students have the opportunity to participate in an externship. During their senior year of high school, they get to go out and have those hands-on experiences within these companies. It’s been a fun program. The students who complete the program actually have a guaranteed interview with the participating companies and they earn a certification. We have one of our star students, Emma Vanderhoeven. Emma graduated from Davis High School in 2016. She was actually in the second cohort of the UAP students. We’re excited to jump into this, Emma, and hear about your experience. So if you just want to start off by telling us a little bit about what your personal experience was going through the UAP program.

Emma Vanderhoeven (2:41): Yeah. I actually first heard about the program… I guess it was three years ago now, in my engineering class in high school that I was taking. I just heard about it from my teacher. I’d never heard about it before. When they first introduced it, they were saying, “We’ve got this externship type program where you can go to all these different industries and learn about what it’d be like to be in the industry, what it’d be like to go that direction.” I wanted to do engineering or something STEM-related for a long time. That’s why I was in an engineering class. So, I just was like, “Oh, I should jump on this opportunity to experience what it is like in the industry, and get a better idea other than just what it’s like sitting in the classroom, to actually go out and do it.”

So, I applied for the program, I got in. I actually did my externship with Boeing. It was so fascinating because we went through the facility. Here at Boeing Salt Lake, they build the horizontal stabilizer for the 787, the vertical fin for the 787 and there are just a few other things that they build there. It was so cool walking through and seeing those wings. Even though they’re just like the tailings, I mean, they’re pretty major and it was so cool and I was just so fascinated. Yeah, it was just so cool, and being able to job shadow with different people that were working there. It was really cool to see what their job was like every day. We got to work with mechanics, we got to job shadow engineers, quality assurance personnel and all those sorts of things. It was just so cool. Yeah, I loved it.

Kimberlee Carlile (4:26): That’s awesome. We hear a lot about work-based learning and providing those opportunities to students even at a younger age. But, just hearing your thoughts on that, having the opportunity while you’re in high school to go out and see what it’s like in the industry, that you might be looking into is really a great opportunity. The greatest feedback we’ve heard from a lot of the students in this program is about the work-based learning experience that they’ve been able to have. Emma, I’m not sure what your background is, or if you were always planning on going into the aerospace industry, but did this pathway program sway you into the aerospace industry or were you already planning on it? Maybe tell us a little bit about that.

Emma Vanderhoeven (5:10): Yeah. Like I said, I always knew… well, I didn’t always know, but during my high school years I was leaning more towards STEM. My family was super supportive of girls going into STEM and stuff like that. So, I was like, “Oh, that’d be so cool.” I wanted to do something related to that. I never thought that I would go into aerospace at all. I didn’t even really know what type of engineering I wanted to do. But the reason why I wanted to do the program was because… when I just first heard about it, I was like, “Here’s a great opportunity to go and learn what it would actually be like to go maybe this direction.” So really the program completely, I would say, sparked my interest in [the] aerospace industry. I never would have thought I would be going in that direction, but it just… like I said, how fascinating everything was to me, how innovative it was, and just seeing it all really is what sparked my interest. So the program for sure pulled me that way.

Kimberlee Carlile (6:06): That’s so great. Emma, now that you have been employed, you’ve been working at Boeing for the past couple of years, since you’ve completed the program, how has that impacted your future goals? What’s your experience been like working in that industry and for the Boeing company here in Salt Lake?

Emma Vanderhoeven (6:25): It’s been really cool. I think in addition to going to school and getting an education, I think it’s been great for me being able to work as a mechanic on the shop floor, building these parts and being hands-on because I think that that will add a little bit more to my skill set, I think. Because when I do graduate college I’ll have a little bit more, I think, of a leg up and just being able to know what it’s like… what works on the product, things like that. I think too after getting hired at Boeing, after high school, I’ve had a lot of networking opportunities which has been really great. Just a lot of doors have opened like getting to do cool little things like this, like this podcast.

I’ve been able to go back and help participate in UAP programs that I’ve gone through over the past couple of years and career development too. I started as a level A mechanic. I’ve started working my way up, already, and I’ve only worked there for like three years. I’m a team lead now over a team at Boeing. That’s been kind of a crazy experience. It’s been kind of stressful but kind of cool too because I’m… I think I’m the youngest team lead here at Boeing Salt Lake. It’s pretty cool. Yeah, just a lot of doors have been opened I think and a lot of additional opportunities and skills that I’m learning in addition to my education. It’s been awesome.

Kimberlee Carlile (8:08): How cool is that? I mean, I love what you said about the experience piece. I think as people are moving along in their careers and taking advantage of maybe tuition reimbursements, or having the opportunity to use stackable credentials and build upon their experience and continue along the education path, I really do feel like the experiences that you have does give you a leg up. Having that background and that foundation at your young age already with the Boeing Company says a lot. Congratulations to you for all the hard work that you’ve put in. That’s a good testament to the type of person that you are. Congratulations on that.

Emma Vanderhoeven (8:51): Thanks.

Kimberlee Carlile (8:52): You also mentioned that you’ve had the opportunity to maybe be involved with the Utah Aerospace Pathways program kind of as an ambassador. You’ve had the opportunity to speak to the students who graduated this last year from the program. What advice would you give high school students, whether it be with the Utah Aerospace Pathways program or maybe with other pathway programs that are out there? What advice would you have for them as they’re participating in these programs and thinking about their future careers?

Emma Vanderhoeven (9:29): Yeah. Okay. Whenever I’m asked this question, what I normally say is, I think it’s really important to take full advantage of the opportunity. If you are like … even if you’re not interested… well, even if you don’t know that you’re interested in it, because I didn’t know I would be interested in aerospace really. It just sounded cool, so I was like, “This would be great.” But, I think even if you don’t know that you’re interested, take advantage of the opportunity if you go for it and ask lots of questions. If you decide that you do like it, then make sure that you put in the action and run with it.

Kimberlee Carlile (10:09): Emma, you mentioned that you’re a team lead here at the Boeing Company in Salt Lake City. So, I’m just curious and very impressed by you by the way. Someone your age, you’re 21 years old, you’re a team lead at Boeing. What does that entail? What is that like for you?

Emma Vanderhoeven (10:25): Well, so I’m actually a mechanic on the horizontal stabilizer for the 787. I work on the trailing edge side. That means I do a lot of drilling, a lot of installation of different parts onto the wing. I install the upper panels and the tip of the wing and stuff like that. That’s just where I started when I started with the company. Now I’m a team lead over the same area, like you said. That involves a little bit of an additional thing that I have to do. I have to do a lot of running around to help my team. I focus a lot on trying to figure out ways to help improve our area, to make it easier for the team to do their job. So yeah. In addition to doing that, I help fill in for people who are gone and stuff like that. So just helping my team improve and continuing to work on the airplane, which is really cool.

I think also having a little bit of an additional exposure to people in the company that can help me continue to advance and just continuing to network and things like that. That’s what’s really awesome to me about being a team lead. While it can be kind of stressful at times being pretty young as a team lead, I feel like sometimes it’s scary for me to approach people sometimes and have difficult conversations, but I’ve learned a lot about myself in the time that I have been a team lead and that I can do it. Even though it’s hard sometimes, I can do the more challenging things and be a leader, which is cool. It’s showing me that I can maybe go that direction into leadership or something like that. So yeah, like I said, just continuing to add to my skill set, but in a different way.

Kimberlee Carlile (12:15): Yeah. Wow. I’m so impressed, Emma. How awesome is that? We look at these programs and we are providing students the opportunity to really get the technical skills while they’re in high school. In this case for Utah Aerospace Pathways, they’re learning engineering, they’re learning composites, they’re learning manufacturing and in the high school setting. But then as they have the opportunity to get into these companies. Look at the experience that you have had, learning leadership skills, having to be an expert in all areas that you are overseeing so that you can fill in, help, be the leader, communicate to your team members, and at the age you’re at is just so impressive. Emma, would you just mind telling us a little bit about your future plans. Are you taking advantage of tuition reimbursement? Do you plan to go back to school and continue your training? What are your future plans?

Emma Vanderhoeven (13:09): Yeah. I am actually taking advantage of that tuition reimbursement. It’s really great. Boeing actually helps pay a lot for my school. I’m actually going back to school right now for mechanical engineering and I am… while working full time, I am able to balance that too, which has been really great. Boeing has been really great at supporting me through that and everything and they’re really focused on career development, just like this program is. So yeah. My end goal right now is to be an engineer. I think being a team lead though has encouraged me to maybe look at leadership in the future too after I get my degree. But yeah, I really want to be an engineer and take what I’ve learned on the being a mechanic on the shop floor and applying that to maybe an engineering position once I graduate. So yeah.

Kimberlee Carlile (14:11): Yeah. Well, the experience you’ve had, I have no doubt that you will ultimately achieve that goal and you’re already on your way. Congratulations again, Emma. Thank you so much for joining us. It’s been a pleasure hearing about your experience and the great opportunities that you have created through your hard work, and just thank you so much for participating with us today and being on the podcast.

Emma Vanderhoeven (14:32): Yeah. Thank you for having me.

Kimberlee Carlile (14:34): Just in closing, we would like to thank our participating partners who helped to make the Utah Aerospace Pathways program a reality. We could not do this program without the companies who have stepped up, they’ve provided a lot of time and resources. They take these high school students in to do externships and internships. They’re providing those hands-on experiences and in this case, you saw how that impacted Emma’s life. But would just like to recognize our aerospace pathways companies. We have the Boeing company, Hexcel, Janicki Industries, Northrop Grumman, Albany Engineered Composites, MSC Aerospace and Parker Aerospace. These companies are located throughout the state of Utah. We could not do this Utah Aerospace Pathways program without our education partners who are tremendous supporters of the program as well.

Emma coming from the Davis school district, but we also work very closely with several school districts across the state; Granite School District, Ogden and Weber School District to Willis School District, Iron County School District. It’s been a tremendous effort. Then another component that I just want to thank is our post-secondary partners. We also work very closely with our technical colleges and Salt Lake Community College who also provide the curriculum and training. Special thanks to the Davis Tech College, Tooele Tech College, Salt Lake Community College and the Southwest Tech College in Cedar City. Anyways, thank you so much, Emma. Good to good to have you today. With that, we will close out on the podcast.


Thanks for listening to the Business Elevated podcast, a production of the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development. Listen to other episodes where you get your podcasts or at business.utah.gov.