CEDAR CITY — A collaboration between Iron County School District, Southwest Technical College, Southern Utah University and MSC Aerospace will provide a stackable credential pathway for students to quickly move into the high paying aerospace and manufacturing industry.
“The proposed Southwest Aerospace and Manufacturing Strategic Workforce Initiative will support students in high school and post-secondary training,” SUU President Scott Wyatt said. “It will prepare them for technical jobs in southern Utah.”
During the Utah Legislature’s 2018 general session, it granted the request for the strategic workforce initiative funding presented by the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee. This request will extend the current Utah aerospace pathway program, providing support for multiple academic paths.
Students completing the Southwest Aerospace Manufacturing Strategic Workforce Initiative have the option to go into the workforce upon graduation from high school or to continue their education through Southwest Technical College or SUU.
The credentials will begin with high school training and concurrent enrollment and then extend to additional certifications as well as associate and bachelor’s degrees articulated through the colleges.
Dr. Richard Cozzens, associate professor in the Department of Engineering and Technology at SUU, is the principal investigator for the initiative. Cozzens has been working with Southwest Technical College, Iron County School District, MSC Aerospace and other industry partners for many years on numerous grants and projects and has built a strong working relationship with each partner.
“Being awarded the Aerospace and Manufacturing Strategic Workforce Initiative is exciting,” Cozzens said. “It is something we have been working on for several years, but we now have the resources to make it happen.”
Cozzens said he sees the initiative as an opportunity to assist high school counselors, teachers and parents in guiding students to the appropriate educational credential, which will include some innovative educational and occupational coordination between Iron County School District, Southwest Technical College, SUU and industry partners. The initiative’s goal is to motivate students by having a clear and effective path to a rewarding career in a manufacturing and other science, technology, engineering and math-related careers, which will help supply local businesses with skilled employees.
The southwest portion of Utah has unique needs in aerospace that are continually growing. The impact of just one successful skilled job placement in Iron County has the same economic impact as 11.48 skilled job placements in Salt Lake County.
“Southwest Technical College and SUU have a positive track record of working collaboratively to create academic and career pathways which begin in high school and allows students to continue their education through certification and degree programs,” said Will Peirce, vice president of instruction at Southwest Technical College. “We are excited about the prospect of expanding our collaboration and providing additional opportunities for our students to take advantage of stackable credentials which will provide multiple entry and exit points preparing them for new and advanced employment in high-demand technical careers.”
The initiative is also a stepping stone in a greater movement to bridge tech schools with four-year institutions.