In its first semester of activity NIC’s aerospace program has seen exceeded expectations.
Initially a single section was planned, but that number increased to two sections after a waitlist formed. This pushed their enrollment to 40 students, with 39 of those seats still filled.
The exceeded expectations come at a time when unofficial enrollment numbers show an 11 percent decline in enrollment. Aerospace and PTE programs experienced a 10 percent increase.
This semester also marks the opening of the building that will house the aerospace program. The building, located in Hayden, was announced to be in the process of leasing earlier this year.
“All the equipment is still coming together in for the lab, so it will all be coming together in the next couple of weeks,” Patrick O’Halloran, recruiter and placement coordinator, said.
Opening of the building is expected to occur mid-October, with an opening ceremony planned for November.
Within the coming two years the program is expected to instruct students in composites materials fabrication and repair, quality assurance and non-destructive testing, and machining and manufacturing. Currently the composites program is in operation and will offer its first semester curriculum again in the spring.
Certificates in the program are referred to as ‘stackables,’ since students earn a certificate for each semester if program guidelines have been met. This allows students to enter and exit the program as they acquire jobs in the respective industries.
Currently the approval of the machining and manufacturing certificate and the Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) certificate are a work in progress. Machining and manufacturing will teach fabrication techniques, while quality assurance and NDT instructs students how to locate flaws and structural weaknesses and utilize the tools of that trade.
After the curriculum of all four semesters has been approved by the Department of Education, they will compose an AAS in Advanced Manufacturing.
O’Halloran said that the program has received good support from the aerospace industry.
“It’s due to the Idaho Aerospace Alliance and other key partners that we were able to bring this to reality.”
Over the summer Lockheed-Martin donated composite materials to the program. The materials donated were obsolete for use within their company. O’Halloran said that the materials will be helpful to the program.
Murdo Cameron of Cameron Aviation donated use of the H1 Unlimited hydroplane for promotional and practical purposes for several months. It is intended that the craft will be molded and cast for future projects.
These donations coincide with the focus on the Aerospace Composite Technology certificate currently offered. The first semester of the certificate familiarizes students with composite fabrication, assembly, and maintenance, as well as blueprint reading. This certifice is intended to help students pursue entry-level opportunities in the composite industry in one semester.
Director of Aerospace and Outreach Kassie Silvas said that there are numerous applications for composite materials, and employers looking for workers.
The program will add a general and airframe maintenance program to allow students to fulfill the requirements to become a certified aviation mechanic per Federal Aviation Administration guidelines.
O’Halloran and the Aerospace Center of Excellence have been active in promoting their program. Recently he and the H1 Unlimited hydroplane were present at the North Idaho Fair and Rodeo. O’Halloran has also coordinated with military bases in the region as well as NIC’s Veterans’ Club, in line with the priority service to military veterans as a condition of the grant that funded the program.
“We have a priority on service of veterans,” O’Halloran said. “We’re actively seeking that audience as well.”
By 2016 the aerospace program is expected to have reached completion as per the requirements of the grant that funded its creation.