Chapter V education update

Ask anyone involved in the aerospace industry to cite the most critical issue they
face and it’s likely they’ll say a trained workforce.

Indeed, Space Florida CEO Frank DiBello has said the need for a highly-trained
workforce is so important, failure to be responsive to the need will become the
“aerospace Achilles heel.”

The need is something heard loud and clear across the Gulf Coast region and in all
four of the states involved in the Aerospace Alliance.

The topic managed to work its way into the first Aerospace Alliance Summit in 2011 in
Destin, Fla. Aerospace representatives called workforce training the key to the
growth of the region’s aviation footprint.

Educators are responding.

In Northwest Florida, workforce training in a variety of fields, including aerospace, got
a boost thanks to money resulting from the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Triumph Gulf Coast, the organization charged with overseeing the distribution of the
money, in April approved nearly $19 million in grants for counties in Northwest
Florida. It includes $3 million in funding for Escambia County School District and
Pensacola State College for workforce development, allowing both to expand
pipelines for training in certifying students for careers in information technology,
cybersecurity, advanced manufacturing and aviation/aerospace.

The money will allow the district to build a new aviation maintenance training hangar
for adult students at George Stone Technical Center and to provide aviation
maintenance education at Booker T. Washington High School.

In Mobile, the new aviation experience center will be named “Flight Works Alabama,”
to reflect the different aspects of the center’s mission.

In May 2017 Gov. Kay Ivey announced the intent to build the hands-on instructional
facility, with the goal to bolster Alabama’s workforce development efforts and inspire
young people to pursue careers in aerospace.

The 19,000-square-foot center will house an interactive exhibition area, classrooms,
a collaboration room, a workshop and more. It will be just off the campus of Airbus’
aircraft manufacturing facility at Mobile Aeroplex and serve as a gateway for public
tours of the A320 assembly line. It will open in 2019.

Gulf Coast institutions have bought into troubling national statistics showing that if
measures are not taken to enhance America’s math and science education, the
country’s ability to compete would continue to diminish.

Shannon Ogletree, director of the Santa Rosa County Economic Development Office
in Milton, Fla., said a well-trained workforce and top-notch educational opportunities
is the No. 1 “want” by the businesses he recruits.

At last year’s Aerospace Alliance Summit in New Orleans, education and training was
the topic of a workshop held during the gathering.

A skills gap exists, but workforce specialists are determined to get the pieces in place
to make Gulf Coast I-10 Corridor a world-class aerospace training area.

The tools are there. The states tied together by Interstate 10 boast world-class
research institutions and university programs, and the I-10 region itself has
vocational training centers, public and private schools, museums and education
centers dedicated to improving the knowledge of STEM from elementary-aged to
college-aged youth.

- Gulf Coast Reporters League, June 2018
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