Announcements made Wednesday show the Rockford area's aerospace cluster is a growing industry and employers are looking for the right talent. Opportunities to create that talent are taking flight. They could put students on the right track to future aerospace careers.
Of course schools like Rock Valley College and Embry Riddle Aeronautical University reach out to adult-learners, but soon they'll be educating an even younger crowd.
"Our overall goal is to produce more students, more graduates for the local companies and supply them for the nationwide needs because there is a shortage of experienced aircraft technicians." -says RVC Aviation Maintenance Chairman Mark Adolphson.
In fall of 2014, RVC opens up 25 spots in its Aviation Maintenance program to high-schoolers. Administrators are looking for a site to house the program so it can continue to expand.
"Once we find a bigger, better facility we think we can also provide additional seats to adults learners." -says RVC President Dr. Jack Becherer.
Over at Embry-Riddle, educators have landed on a location, Jefferson High School. An aerospace academy will start up there in a couple months.
"Students have already signed up, we have two full sections running the class so that's 48 students altogether who will be taking the class next Fall." -says Rockford Public Schools District #205 Director of College & Career Readiness David Carson.
ERAU has hired its instructor for that academy; teacher, aviator and Rockford College graduate, Mike Polen.
"We're tailoring instruction to more real-world college-type classes; the class I'm going to be teaching to freshmen at JHS is the freshmen Aeronautical Science class at Embry-Riddle." -Polen says.
Rock Valley College and Embry-Riddle are also involved in long-term partnerships with each other and programs like the Joint Institute of Technology and Engineering Aerospace, or JIET-A. That program provides internships to college students at regional companies.
"However we can help in that endeavor, we're certainly there for." -says ERAU Worldwide Rockford Campus Academic Support Director Melissa Barbee.
Embry-Riddle leaders say a partnership with Northern Illinois University is also in discussions. Both schools are looking at possible joint-degree programs.
Earlier we reported...
Rock Valley College aviation maintenance program is taking off. It will soon see graduate double students it does now. To do that is needs to expand it's facility before a new high school program starts.
"It's a very perfect school to gain perfect knowledge. And I've noticed there are a lot of positive things in it better than my old school," says Mohamed Ghaben, RVC student.
Ghaben drives 100 miles one way from Chicago to come to Rock Valley College's aviation maintenance program. Although there is a program closer it costs more than double the $14,000 Ghaben will pay for his two year certification. That's what the FAA requires to fix passenger planes for service.
"It's a critical job and it's a big responsibility. I mean you are in charge of people's lives and I want to do something important like that," says Ghaben.
Ghaben is a traditional RVC student but in the fall of 2014 there will be 25 new high school students joining his program. They will be from Advance Now, a vocational education partnership RVC has with area high schools. That means Rock Valley will go from graduating around 30 aviation maintenance technicians to more than 50.
"Our overall goal is to produce more students, more graduates for the local companies and supply them for the nationwide needs because there is a shortage of experienced aircraft technicians," says Mark Adolphson, RVC, aviation maintenance academic chair.
In order to do that RVC needs to find a new facility to handle the extra students. It is searching both near Rockford's airport, where its current classroom are located and outside the area. School administrators' hopes that will help them grow the program even more.
"Once we find a bigger, better facility we think we can also provide additional seats to adults learners," says Dr. Jack Becherer, RVC, president.
"We are also talking about expanding into and offering some what additional licenses that would focus more on the avionics or the electronics that are onboard the aircraft these days," says Adolphson.
Along with looking for a new facility, Rock Valley also needs to hire. It will add a new full time faculty member to the aviation maintenance program.
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