Aviation companies in Wichita, Kansas, are so strapped for skilled workers that out-of-the-area students who enroll in certain short-term programs at WSU Tech will have their living and relocation costs covered, as well as their tuition.
WSU Tech, formerly known as Wichita Area Technical College, is partnering with the Wichita Community Foundation and local businesses to support the Wichita Promise MOVE program. Classes will start this fall.
“The goal is to entice people to move to Wichita and start a career in aviation in the air capital of the world,” says WSU Tech President Sheree Utash. “We’re focused on breaking down the barriers and moving people here to create an opportunity for training, to have a career and to become part of the Wichita community.”
Students participating in Wichita Promise MOVE can enroll in one of short-term certificate programs: sheet metal assembly or process mechanic painter at the college’s National Center for Aviation Training.
In addition to having their tuition, rent and moving costs paid for, the students will receive job coaching, a guaranteed job interview and a signing bonus when hired. Those who earn a certificate will be qualified for a high-demand job that pays $14 to $15 an hour.
In and out of state
WSU hopes to attract 25 to 30 people who live outside Kansas and another 25 to 30 people who live in the state but outside a 75-mile radius of Wichita, Utash says. Even before Wichita Promise MOVE was officially announced, potential applicants from Missouri and Arkansas expressed an interest in the program.
The Wichita Community Foundation is providing $500,000 to fund Wichita Promise MOVE from its Talent Ecosystem Fund, which supports workforce development and lifelong learning. That is enough to support up to 60 people. If there is more demand, the college could divert some of its own funding to the program, Utash says.
Bonavia Industries offered to contribute $80,000 worth of free housing to participating students, she says, and other companies are providing discounts on housing and furniture rentals.
Building on another Promise
To qualify, applicants must live outside the Wichita area, have a high school diploma or equivalent, pass a background check and drug test and have a minimal math score. Student success coaches at WSU Tech will help them to apply for the program and adjust to their new life in Wichita.
Wichita Promise MOVE builds on WSU Tech’s two-year-old Wichita Promise program, which has provided scholarships to hundreds of students in eligible short-term training programs for high-wage, high-demand jobs, such as computer numerical control operators, composite fabricators, aviation sheet metal mechanics, practical nurses, surgical technicians and dental assistants.
That program also provides personalized career coaching, financial literacy, job readiness certifications and a guaranteed job interview.
The MOVE program aims to fill employers’ needs, not to increase enrollment at WSU Tech, which has seen enrollment grow by 60 percent over the past three years, Utash says.
“We need more people coming in to the aviation pipeline. We have a huge need,” she says. “Our hope is that students who complete the six- or eight-week training program will get a job and later come back to the college and add to their skill set.”