WATC Awarded Largest Grant in College’s History in Support of Aviation Curriculum Development

Wichita, Kans. — Wichita Area Technical College (WATC) has been awarded the largest grant in its history and will lead a consortium of community colleges in the development of industry-standard aviation manufacturing training curricula. The U.S. Department of Labor announced on Wednesday, Sept. 19 that WATC and four other community colleges nationally will receive $14.9 million in a Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant beginning Oct. 1, 2012.

WATC was chosen to facilitate and lead the project and a WATC Project Manager will coordinate efforts among participating colleges in five states. WATC’s portion of the nearly $15 million grant approaches $9 million dollars. Click here for the project’s abstract.

In addition to its financial and project leadership roles, WATC is responsible for outcomes of the grant. The project will be evaluated externally by the Office of Education, Innovation and Evaluation at Kansas State University. The grant is part of the Obama administration’s initiative to allocate $500 million nationally in support of job training through local employer partnerships. Click here for the U.S. Department of Labor’s press release (and scroll down to Kansas).

“Using this grant, our goal is to ensure that America continues to produce the finest aviation manufacturing employees in the world,” said Dr. Tony Kinkel, President of Wichita Area Technical College. “As an organization uniquely equipped with the country’s best facilities and most capable faculty, WATC is pleased to have been selected to facilitate an effort that is really about ensuring the preeminence of the American aviation workforce for years to come.”

Led by WATC, the group of five colleges identifies itself as the National Aviation Consortium. It is comprised of Wichita Area Technical College (Wichita, Kans.), Ivy Tech Community College (Ft. Wayne, Ind.), Guilford Technical Community College (Jamestown, N.C.), Tulsa Community College (Tulsa, Okla.) and Edmonds Community College (Lynnwood, Wash.). In Wichita, local partners include Bombardier Learjet, Cessna, Hawker Beechcraft, and Spirit AeroSystems as well as the Kansas Board of Regents, the Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas and KANSAS WORKS from the Kansas Department of Commerce. The National Association of Manufacturers and the National Institute for Manufacturing also played critical roles in the development of this project. Other colleges in the consortium will work with additional employers and partners in their respective states.

“This grant is the true essence of collaboration,” said Sheree Utash, Vice President of Academic Affairs at WATC. “This would not have been possible without the extensive public/private relationships of education, government and industry and the shared vision that has been developed based on the national need for a skilled workforce. We’re honored to have been selected to be a leader in the development of world-class aerospace training that can be delivered consistently across the United States with industry-recognized credentials to ensure the future and a competitive edge for the aerospace industry.”

Students will receive accelerated training to fill current aviation manufacturing jobs that remain open due to an unskilled workforce. A sector-based strategy will build on the previous success of the National Manufacturers Association Institute’s Skills Certificate System, and expand it with six aviation endorsed manufacturing credentials. One intended outcome of the project is a consensus of aviation manufacturers on national standard aviation credentials to increase the competitiveness of U.S. companies in this essential sector.

“I’m really proud to be a part of this team effort and look forward to watching as this vision materializes into reality,” said Denise Pfeifer, Manager of Grants/Programs at WATC. “Through a community effort and the collaboration of our partners, the funds from this grant will attribute to students gaining the skills they need to be successful in the workplace and employers getting the skilled employees they need to run a successful business.”

Students will develop core competencies and then continue in pursuit of one or more technical certifications in areas such as aerostructures/sheetmetal, tooling, quality assurance, composites, etc. Such workforce development efforts are critical to the future of the aviation industry in Wichita. This need was addressed by Sedgwick County with the creation of the National Center for Aviation Training two years ago. Today’s announcement that WATC has been selected to receive grant funds and lead the project is a testament to the national emergence of WATC and the National Center for Aviation Training as well as the foresight of County officials and Wichita’s aviation industry leadership.

Career pathways will utilize stacked and latticed credentials to align educational certificates with industry-recognized credentials. The approach offers multiple on- and off-ramps to enter employment so trade-impacted workers can continue to advance in the education pathway. Clear aviation pathways will be tied to regional economies and employer demand. In addition, career pathways utilize prior learning assessment to support accelerated training for experienced adult learners.

Opportunities will be created for students to earn college credit through technology-enabled learning for certificate attainment. Another feature includes the continued development of transfer and articulation agreements with universities building on industry-recognized credentials. Industry-recognized skills and knowledge will be identified in cluster areas and will facilitate employment, business, and entrepreneurial opportunities in aviation at multiple exit points.

Managed by Wichita Area Technical College (WATC), the National Center for Aviation Training (NCAT) is the world’s premier facility for the development of a skilled aviation manufacturing workforce. Additionally, a portion of the space is utilized by Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR). Located in Wichita, KS, the Air Capital of the World, NCAT was built by Sedgwick County in 2010 and boasts 220,000 sq. ft. of state-of-the-art training labs and classrooms. Click here for the Manufacturing Institute’s press release.

For more information, please contact Sheree Utash, Vice President of Academic Affairs, at 316-677-9536.

Wichita Area Technical College
4004 N Webb Rd
Wichita, Kansas, 67226
Phone: 316-677-9400