Aerospace soaring in the economic future By Barney Ballard For SPR It’s a longstanding criticism of Idaho: The state simply doesn’t prepare its youth for a career after they finish high school. With statistics putting Idaho close to the bottom of the nation in advancing students to college or post-high school training, local educators have poured untold hours into developing solutions for Bonner County students. One local industry is poised to become a frontrunner in training and employing young people for lucrative careers: the aerospace industry. With several programs offering multiple forms of training and experience, students have more options than ever to pursue exciting careers. The road to establishing these opportunities goes back more than five years. In 2009, community activists Connie Kimble, Alan Millar, Jim Zuberbuhler and Karl Dye formed a group to expand Sandpoint education opportunities. The resulting “Communiversity” became the genesis of efforts to expand aerospace education. In June 2010, aviation legends Forrest and Pam Bird hosted an educational forum dedicated to uniting diverse scholastic efforts. This group focused upon creating a relationship with the charter school and local industries at the airport. The resulting collaboration with Forrest Bird Charter School and local aerospace businesses Tamarack and Quest coincided with North Idaho College establishing a satellite school in downtown Sandpoint. The disparate projects all had one common theme: to enhance education, and consequently the economy, throughout the greater Sandpoint area. The educational institutions sought ways to directly plug graduating high schoolers into career pathways, while businesses like Tamarack and Quest saw value in a locally trained workforce. All the elements were in place—now someone needed to connect the dots. That process began in 2013, when the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation launched Pathways in Technology Early College High School—or PTECH—a program supporting high schools that cooperated with a specific college or industry. Serendipitously, Millar and Zuberbuhler brought the charter school, aerospace businesses, and the expanded NIC together for a successful proposal. The presentation was so well received that the Albertson Foundation asked Millar to lead the program’s expansion throughout Idaho.
PTECH essentially prepares students for careers in growing industries by adding two years onto a standard K-12 education. Students receive a dual enrollment status, but, more importantly, they receive a mentor and financial support through the first two years of college. Under those circumstances, it’s conceivable to earn an associate degree with no debt. A student taking advantage of PTECH could graduate from high school with a great deal of the basic college courses already completed. For instance, a student wanting to become an aircraft mechanic could go to NIC and follow up at Spokane Community College (with a six-month power plant course). After completing the program, they’d wind up with an associate degree and a license as a certified aircraft mechanic within two years of graduation from high school. It’s not just aerospace industry, either—these career pathways are also being offered in information technology and the incredibly successful NIC nursing program. The resulting debt is minimal with careful planning. It wasn’t long before Sandpoint High School joined in on the action, starting with participation in the PTECH program. Principal Tom Albertson also collaborated with the charter school on a Career Pathways in Aerospace class. Taught by Nayla Morton and certified flight instructor Ken Larson, the club was created to build an airplane kit that was donated to the school district. About 30 students now participate in the club or aerospace classes between both schools. Many generous people in the aerospace community created the buzz around the Career Pathways class. Thanks to these outstanding contributors, the second semester kicked off with a dedicated core of students pursuing either a mechanic’s focus, an engineering perspective, or a sport pilot ground school to attain knowledge and flight experience for a license. Malia Meschko picked up the ball for the second semester, leading students in a Computer Assisted Design class focusing on aircraft design that will hopefully provide an opportunity to build an airplane. While there are still great options for the traditional four-year college, it’s very exciting and fulfilling to know that hands-on career opportunities are waiting for students with different goals. Many aerospace careers offer high-paying jobs and do not require a four-year college degree. Plus, having little to no debt when entering the job force should strike anyone’s interest.
Illustration by Daniel Cape
Many aviation luminaries contributed to making local aerospace education programs a success. They include:
•Legendary aviator and engineer Burt Rutan •Astronaut John Phillips •Apollo engineer Roger King •Aerospace engineer and Dreamlin- er test pilot Anna Nystrom •Aviatrixes Pam Bird and Tonya Ru- tan •The Tamarack engineering and me- chanical crew •The Quest manufacturing team •Boeing satellite engineer Duncan Watson •Local aircraft builders Nate Dyk and Don McIntosh •Legendary mechanics Joseph and Meriah D’Atillo with Steve Hewitt and Steve Ruff
•Lifeflight crews •Gary Hojan from Aerocet •Air Traffic Control Northwest Re- gional Chief Jamie Erdt •Dave Mundel and numerous com- mercial pilots •Paul Nowaski from Flying Tiger Maintenance and Mechanics •Granite Aviation’s Andy Berrey, Emma Carter and Sara Williams
•U.S. Air Force pilot Chris Dempsey •Loadmaster Zach Ward •The NIC Composite and Airframe program crew •The EAA #1441 group •Air show competitor Jacquie Warda
February 26, 2015 /