Guilford Tech’s Aviation Curriculum Meets Industry Needs EducationNC


North Carolina and aviation are inextricably linked with the Wright Brothers achieving the first ever powered air flight at Kitty Hawk in 1903. And while Kitty Hawk will always host the first flight, located approximately 300 miles west is what many consider to be the new home of aviation training.

Aviation is one of the oldest programs at Guilford Technical Community College (GTCC). First beginning with Aviation Management in 1969, the college now has five aviation program tracks. From training pilots to technicians to mechanics, GTCC offers multiple opportunities for students looking to enter the aerospace industry.

“We have carefully constructed programs here that lead to very low-key jobs that are in large numbers,” said Dr. Beth Pitonzo, GTTC’s senior vice president of instruction. “One hundred percent employment. If people go through any of these [programs]they are locally and regionally employable.

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Student in aviation program class at GTCC. Emily Thomas/EducationNC

A recent study of the economic impact of all community colleges in North Carolina found that Guilford Tech had a total annual economic impact of $542.9 million in 2019-20. The impact of graduates alone totaled $438.7 million.

Aviation, specifically aviation electronics (avionics) technology, was one of five GTCC programs assessed in the impact study. In 2019-20, graduates of the Avionics Technology program generated approximately $384,500 in additional revenue for Guilford County. When it comes to alumni lifetime earnings, the report showed a per-student increase of $684,200.

GTCC’s aviation program does more than just equip students. It also helps meet the demand for more skilled workers among aviation employers.

Some of these employers include HAECO (Aeronautical Engineering Society of Hong Kong), Honda planesand more recently supersonic boom.

Nick Yale, director of aviation programs at the GTCC, attributes the success of these partnerships to the ability of community colleges to optimize training for each employer’s unique needs.

“We went to HAECO and said…what do we need to add to this program to give you exactly what you need,” Yale explained.

The college then added modules to an existing aviation curriculum to meet HAECO’s specific needs.

“We believe that GTCC’s efforts to provide relevant training and education based on real job requirements has been instrumental in the success of our new employees entering the workforce. The faculty has worked diligently with HAECO training personnel to ensure alignment with the curriculum while maintaining the highest standards that exceed FAA requirements.

John Huff, Vice President of Human Resources at HAECO

HAECO has hired over 924 certified aircraft mechanic graduates from Guilford Tech.

Before Boom Supersonic announced the construction of its manufacturing and final assembly plant in Greensboro, Yale asked the same question of business leaders: what do you need?

With more than 25 years of experience in the aviation industry — working for companies like Delta Airlines and FedEx — Yale has also helped companies anticipate their hiring needs.

“The team at Guilford Technical Community College was able to anticipate many of Boom’s initial hiring and training needs.”

Chris Taylor, Vice President of Manufacturing at Boom Supersonic

Boom Supersonic will create more than 1,750 jobs by 2030, according to a Press release from Governor Roy Cooper’s office.

North Carolina is ahead of many other states in their ability to support local industries with skilled workers, and we’re very proud to be building the supersonic future here..”

Chris Taylor, Vice President of Manufacturing at Boom Supersonic

Taking the program to new heights

More than 200 aerospace companies call North Carolina home. From 2015 to 2019, the state saw aerospace manufacturing grows three times the national average.

As the industry is expected to continue to grow statewide, so too will Guilford Tech’s aviation programs. There are currently around 400 students in the five aeronautical courses. Yale said the college will need to add more students to meet employer needs.

The challenge?

“You can’t grow our program overnight,” Yale said.

But one area with growth potential is among Guilford County’s high school student population.

North Carolina students who meet the eligibility requirements can participate in Career and academic promise (CCP), a program that gives high school students the opportunity to take tuition-free college courses. The program is designed to help students kick-start their careers or college preparation.

And that’s exactly what Xu “Jackie” Yi and Brody Sawyer are doing. Sawyer and Yi are both high school students enrolled in Guilford Tech’s aeronautical path through Career and College Promise.

Sawyer said he sees this as a springboard for his future. He has always loved airplanes and was fascinated with flying after seeing the Wright Brothers Memorial when he was 10 years old.

Like Sawyer, Yi has always been intrigued by how things work and thinks the classes she’s taking will give her a head start on her career path.

Sawyer and Yi both started out as freshmen at the Aviation Academy at Andrews High School. During the four-year program, students take a number of aviation courses while completing their required high school courses. As high school juniors, students can begin taking classes through Guilford Tech under the Career and College Promise program.

After successfully completing the CCP aviation pathway courses, Sawyer and Yi will be able to take the airframe license test – which Sawyer considers a huge advantage.

“The industry is really short on maintenance and pilots right now,” Sawyer said. “So if you walk into [GTCC’s aviation] program, you are almost guaranteed to have a job right away.

While Sawyer is still debating between aviation and the Naval Academy after high school, Yi already has a job lined up.

In addition to CCP courses, Yi is enrolled in a program through the Aviation Academy which partners with HAECO. After graduating from high school, Yi will work at HAECO as a mechanic’s helper while she completes her remaining aviation courses through GTCC. HAECO covers tuition fees and guarantees students employment after graduation.

“The high school student sponsorship model is something that can be adopted by any airline in the region,” said David Mayers, director of aviation at Andrews High School. “Currently, nine recent graduates have become mechanic helpers since we launched the program in 2020.”

Partner to move forward

Yale and Pitonzo are committed to reviving high school careers because these careers can change a person’s life trajectory.

“Some of these jobs, within five years, you make $120,000 a year,” Yale said.

Taylor shared a similar sentiment.

“Many industries could benefit from being involved at the high school level and communicating the opportunities they have for students seeking an education or training at a community college. There is such pressure for students to attend a four-year university, which is not always well suited depending on their interests. Community colleges are a great option for students looking to boost their college career in an exciting industry like aerospace where specific skills are needed.

Chris Taylor, Vice President of Manufacturing at Boom Supersonic

The partnerships don’t stop at local high schools. Guilford Tech worked with Forsyth Technical Community College when it launched its aviation program last year.

Students in aviation program at GTCC. Emily Thomas/EducationNC

And the spirit of collaboration is important for employers.

We have benefited from Guilford Tech’s relationship with Forsyth Tech, which has given us valuable insight into additional training programs we could utilize. It also gave us a better understanding of how we can work with the local community college network to support the production of Overture.pm up.

Chris Taylor, Vice President of Manufacturing at Boom Supersonic

As for employers looking to partner with community colleges, Taylor offers a tip.

“Contact community colleges early and often to take advantage of these programs,” he said. “One of the most important elements that make our collaboration successful is GTCC’s network of local organizations, both government and industry. These valuable connections have provided us with information for doing business in the Triad. »

With continued growth expected in the aerospace industry, Guilford Tech leaders are committed to equipping students and meeting the needs of employers.

“As the pool of aviation maintenance candidates continues to shrink, we will increasingly depend on programs provided by schools like the GTCC,” said John Huff, vice president of human resources at HAECO.

And for aerospace employers looking to relocate to the Tar Heel State, Yale is ready to pop the question.

” What do you need ? »

Emily Thomas

Emily Thomas is a policy analyst for EducationNC.

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