The number of aerospace-related jobs in the Dayton, Ohio, area is
expected to jump 14 percent in four years, and local business,
education and economic development leaders are scrambling to get
students in line for those jobs now.
Attracting and retaining college graduates in the science, technology and engineering fields is critical to that effort, prompting several groups to launch or expand internship programs.
Aerospace is the second largest of Ohio's technology industries, employing 100,133 full-time workers.
Those industry employment figures are from the state Aerospace and Business Aviation Advisory Council.
"As the Air Force, because of budgetary pressures, has moved away from a significant number of internships, the ability of our businesses and industries here in the region to provide internships in these advanced engineering programs and applications is absolutely crucial," said Joe Zeis, the Dayton Development Coalition's executive vice president and chief strategic officer.
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is the state's largest single- site employer and has an annual economic impact of nearly $5 billion.
JobsOhio officials said $9 billion annually is invested in aerospace research and development and testing in Ohio.
Global aircraft demand is projected to increase by more than 35 percent by 2019, according to the state aerospace council. Thirty percent of U.S. aircraft engine manufacturing is located in Ohio and the adjacent states of Indiana and Michigan. Locally, aerospace systems employment is projected to increase 13.9 percent from 18,940 jobs last year to 21,570 in 2016, according to the Dayton Development Coalition.
Public-private partnerships are the preferred method of advancing economic development in the Dayton region, said Deb Norris, Sinclair Community College's vice president for workforce development and corporate services.
Partnerships among Wright-Patt and its research agencies, local businesses including defense contracting companies, and colleges and universities help the participating organizations get access to new ideas and make better use of tightly stretched resources for all, Norris said.
Zeis, who chairs the Ohio Aerospace and Business Aviation Advisory Council, said area colleges and universities are aligning their academic programs to support Air Force research and development and other base-related industries.
Officials said taking advantage of future aerospace opportunities, including the possibility for additional Base Realignment and Closure jobs, will require increasing the region's workforce capacity.
"We need to make sure that we have the most vital, educated and prepared aerospace workforce to support existing missions and any potential new mission opportunities that might come as a result of a future BRAC," said Dan Curtis, president of the Dayton-Wright chapter of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA).
AFCEA is a nonprofit organization that serves as a bridge between government and industry, and presents $1.4 million annually in scholarships, grants and awards to students in the "hard" sciences. The local chapter has 102 corporate members and nearly 700 individual members.
Last month, AFCEA launched an internship program with local businesses, including defense contractors, in collaboration with the Southwestern Ohio Council for Higher Education (SOCHE). Initial response to the program is "substantially exceeding" expectations, said Curtis, a Beavercreek business development consultant.
SOCHE has doubled its own student research internship program at Wright-Patt during the last five years and now involves 150 students annually, said Sean Creighton, executive director.
Last month, SOCHE announced a $115,000 grant from the Dayton Development Coalition to further expand its college internship program and align it with the region's key industries. SOCHE wants to grow local internships from the current 8,000 to 20,000 by 2020.
"Anything we can do to make our contractors in this region more competitive, the greater the impact to our economic vitality," Curtis said.
Staff Writer John Nolan contributed to this report.
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