Greene County considers aerospace school

The Greene County Career Center hopes to launch a state-of-the-art aerospace engineering academy that would serve middle and high school students, as well as adults seeking retraining, to help meet the workforce needs of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and its supporting industries.

The GCCC will pick a contractor next month to perform a feasibility study on the demand, cost, site and potential benefit of the project. GCCC spokesman Ron Bolender said part of the study will include looking at school models across the nation, with an idea of combining high-end STEM classroom work with hands-on mechanical programs in the aviation and aerospace sphere.

“It makes so much sense that we’re in Wright-Patterson’s community — with the base and all the contractors that support the base, and there’s nothing that’s really been developed for kids who want to follow that (aerospace) pathway at an earlier stage,” Bolender said.

GCCC’s request for proposals cites likely job demand in multiple technical fields in the coming years, in part because “the current workforce continues a retirement boom.”

Bolender added that preliminary conversations with base officials and leaders in the aerospace and aviation industries have created “a resounding amount of support for pursuing the idea.”

Greene County high schools vary in what engineering curriculum they offer. The Career Center does not have engineering courses at its campus, but has satellite programs at Fairborn and Xenia high schools, according to Bolender. Fairborn’s course list shows seven engineering-related courses, including one in the aerospace field. Beavercreek High School lists advanced sciences, but no specific engineering courses.

Bellbrook High School does not offer a specific aerospace course, but does have five Project Lead the Way engineering courses, plus a dual-enrollment college course.

Bellbrook Principal Chris Baker said the feasibility study sounds like a smart move to see how local schools can best serve the region’s students, given the expected demand for engineers tied to Wright-Patt.

“I would be interested to see how schools like Bellbrook and others that are already into STEM could partner with and be part of a greater hub,” Baker said, adding that he hoped any project would be “something that benefits all the schools in Greene County.”

Bolender said the feasibility study would examine how much student interest would be needed to start the project.

“At first glance, I don’t think that will be a problem,” he said. “Just in our current programs, we have more than a 100-student increase over last year. We’ve already had a big jump in enrollment.”

GCCC officials emphasized that if they do start the aerospace academy, it would not come at the expense of the center’s existing programs, such as agriculture, health science, criminal justice and others.

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