As administrators in Kirkwood Community College’s Industrial Technologies department anticipate the start of the new Aviation Maintenance Technology program next fall, they have their hands full.
Through a series of ongoing- student recruitment efforts and tenuous days laying the foundation for the program’s academic components, there is still extensive work to be done before the first entering class – a move they say is amidst highly stringent FAA rules, regulations and state guidelines.
“It’s hard to emphasize the degree of FAA oversight and the magnitude that our work is subject to,” said Dr. Emily Logan, dean of the college’s Industrial Technologies department.
“The really exciting thing about this field is that when you think about the potential of students who will complete the program, they truly have the opportunity to have a global experience,” Logan said.
Last month the college introduced the program to the community after receiving a combined total of close to $1 million from both federal and local funding sources in support of launching the program.
Additionally the program also acquired its own airport hangar at the Eastern Iowa Airport from Alliant Energy to use for classroom and workspace for aviation students.
The two-year program, which culminates in an Associates of Applied Science (A.A.S.) requires that students complete 77.5 credit hours of coursework including the full academic year and summer terms.
As the first class of 24 students matriculate, they will undergo extensive training in the study of aircraft engines, both metal and composite (fiberglass) structures, electronics, hydraulics and pneumatics as well as landing gear communications and instruments said Nathan Bellinger, the Aviation Maintenance Technology program director. Additionally, students will also be able to receive specialized certifications, he said.
In terms of student recruiting for next year’s entering class, Bellinger said the department is casting a wide net. “We’re recruiting from everywhere,” he said. However, the college expects its target audience to be everyone from traditional post high school students and a host of non-traditional career changing students and veterans.
Moreover, in terms of students financing their aviation education, they will submit the Federal Student Aid Report to the college as all Kirkwood students, and may also be eligible for some scholarships funds through the Kirkwood Foundation. Additionally, they may also qualify for the state’s Last Dollar Future Ready Scholarship if the college decides to add this program to their list of eligible programs that qualifies, said Tristan Lynn, Financial Aid Program Specialist at Iowa College Aid in Des Moines.
Because the aviation education is considered to be regional in nature rather than state-wide, the college only has five programs that the state allows colleges such as Kirkwood to fund under the The Last Dollar Scholarship Program.
“The Aviation Maintenance Technology program is another opportunity for Kirkwood Community College to serve our region’s workforce needs,” Logan said. Additionally the college will also help fulfill the workforce shortage in this much needed area, she added. Furthermore Kirkwood’s partnership with the Eastern Iowa Airport facilitates high-quality teaching and learning to prepare the next generation of aviation mechanics. Logan said that the college will continue maintain partnerships with those in the aviation industry as an essential element to help improve the curriculum, provide equipment and offer excellent instruction.
“Additionally on-going partnerships with state, federal, and private funding sources will hopefully maintain the program’s excellence and help the college provide a first-class student experience,” she said.