W.Va.'s Aviation Educators: Now is the time to pursue a career in aerospace

W.Va.'s Aviation Educators: Now is the time to pursue a career in aerospace

W.Va.'s Aviation Educators: Now is the time to pursue a career in aerospace
 
MORGANTOWN — With a need for skilled workers and readily available educational opportunities, West Virginia’s aviation educators say now is the time to enter the field. A variety of degrees are offered from schools throughout the state, ranging from associate all the way to doctorate levels. While he encourages students to pursue higher education, National Aerospace Education Center Director and Senior Professor of Aviation Technology Thomas Stose said that any degree in the aerospace field can lead to a rewarding career. An extension of Pierpont Technical & Community College, Stose said the Aerospace Center is the only FAA approved in the state, providing certification for over 20 years.
 
“Our mission is to put the citizens of West Virginia to work right here in West Virginia, in careers that are life-long, well paying and rewarding,” he said. “Aerospace is growing rapidly across the nation, and we want West Virginia aerospace to grow with it.”
 
Stose added that for the mechanical minded and those who like to work with their hands, a degree in aviation maintenace technology can be an especially good fit.
 
“(The National Aerospace Education Center) provides two-year associate degrees in aviation maintenance technology,” he said. “Students work on all types of aircraft, from personal planes to transport category aircraft.”
 
He added that many of his students are former coal miners or other industry workers, seeking to change professions or just pick up additional skills.
 
“For workers in industries that are struggling, aerospace is a great career step,” Stose said. “Many of the skills from coal and other similar careers translate right over to aviation maintenance.
 
Stose believes one advantage of the aerospace market is its stability; commercial flight is a billion-dollar industry that he doesn’t see a likely replacement too.
 
“Flight is an integral part of many, many industries,” he said. “It’s certainly here to stay as it has been for decades.”
 
For younger aviation enthusiasts, Harrison County schools run a program where senior students can attend the center for half a day and receive credit toward their associatesdegree while still in high school.
 
“Students getting a head start in high school can get out of our program before they hit 20 and start at a high salary,” Stose said. “Most graduates start from around $17 to $20 an hour.”
 
While there are plenty of employment options for anyone looking to work within the state, once certified degree holders are eligible to work in all 50 states.
 
“Just about as soon as a class graduates, we have companies from all across the country coming in to recruit,” he said. “I have students who travel the world working for commercial airlines.”
 
Stose said that high pay and high rates of employment are currently common in all sections of aviation, with the industries rapid growth showing a new demanding skilled employees.
 
“There’s a shortage of workers in the aerospace industry right now,” Stose said. “It’s really a great time to get certified and take advantage of all the opportunities a career in aviation affords.”
 
Apart from the Aerospace Center, Fairmont State offers a Bachelor of Science in aviation technology, with specialities including management, maintenance and flight. For those seeking to pursue advanced courses, West Virginia University offers degrees in aerospace engineering up to the doctoral level, with students pursuing a wide range of careers upon graduation.
 
WVU Professor Emeritus John Kuhlman, who has taught classes and performed research in the aerospace field for decades, said that employment opportunities for all levels of education are increasing rapidly in the field.
 
“There are jobs in West Virginia in elsewhere for engineers working on documenting capabilities of new aircraft, designing upgrades for efficiency, working on jet propulsion and more,” he said. “There will always be a demand for these skills.”
 
Kuhlman said the increased need for skill workers in aerospace comes in part from the increased complexity of modern aviation. Complicated algorithms and advanced computer systems are now common in even small aircraft.
 
“Maintenance on modern airplanes is becoming increasingly complex,” he said. “The methods and tools used are fairly sophisticated.”
 
Kuhlman said there are also opportunities for aerospace engineers interested in working on space and space travel-based technology, with West Virginia facilities engaging in important research.
 
“We have grad students at the West Virginia Robotic Technology Center developing sensors for robots that would give them a more human-like touch,” he said. “Essentially the goal is to be able to send robots to do repair work that could for a variety of reasons be less feasible for an astronaut.”
 
WVU Tech provost Dr. Joan Neff agreed, citing the new opportunities the agreement offers students on both campuses.
 
“This means a tremendous amount for our institution,” she said. “It’s an opportunity for us to have resources available to us we don’t currently have, as well as providing resources to Fairmont State they don’t necessarily have.”
 
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