Last year, the U.S. Department of Labor gave Ivy Tech Community College Northeast $1.5 million to train hundreds of students for aviation-maintenance jobs. On Wednesday, people with stakes in the program began learning more about how it would work.
If the new certification program works as educators believe it will, it has potential to benefit students, instructors and employers, according to those who described it for about 40 people – mainly from the fields of education, workforce development and economic development – in the meeting at Ivy Tech's Aviation Center, 405 W. Cook Road.
The program will give students the opportunity to earn certificates in either aircraft assembly or electrical assembly after just 12 weeks. The 12-week program also will certify graduates' competence in many core manufacturing skills that could help students be productive quickly in many types of manufacturing, advocates say.
The advantages they described, in brief:
For students, the certificate program could give them a good shot at a job after only 12 weeks of school. It also moves much of the instruction online, so that students can learn at their own paces.
For instructors, it makes the most of their expertise by focusing their time on hands-on lab work.
For employers, it creates a new stream of students who have shown they have mastered a core of industrial skills.
It's a dramatic shift from the old approach to which companies sometimes resorted: “Let's just hire someone who's breathing and can maybe work,” said Denise Pfeifer, project manager for the National Aviation Consortium. That consortium won the $15 million grant for aviation-maintenance education; Ivy Tech's $1.5 million grant is a part of the larger grant.
Ivy Tech Northeast Chancellor Jerrilee Mosier had a hand in beginning the development of these aviation-maintenance certificates at her previous job in workforce development at Edmonds Community College in Lynnwood, Wash. She pointed out another advantage for certain students – some displaced workers and unemployed veterans, for example: The grant will pay their tuition in the certificate program.
This certification program also has a track record at at Edmonds College and a technical college in Wichita, Kan., Pfeifer said. In Washington, 800 students have been placed in jobs after being certified, she said. “In Kansas, if you go through these programs, you're guaranteed an interview,” she said.
In the next two and a half years, Ivy Tech will aim to graduate 501 students through this Aviation Maintenance Technology program, through its Fort Wayne and Indianapolis campuses. Numerous aviation credentials are expected to be developed and issued, including those in quality and health safety, assembly mechanics, electrical assembly, composite repair, quality assurance and tooling. Area companies also will work with Ivy Tech in the program, officials said.