The Wichita Advantage

Unique training programs allow Air Capital to soar
By John Tomblin, Ph. D.

I have had the unique opportunity to be involved in the highly anticipated Design Build Fly Exhibit since its early planning stages, and in those early meetings with museum staff, I knew one thing was clear: Wichita deserves an exhibit as unique as the city itself.

What makes Wichita unique? Is it the Keeper of the Plains, strong local businesses, humble pride, welcoming and friendly atmosphere? Yes, but it’s more than that. Wichita has another important advantage over other cities.

Among Wichita’s key strengths in aviation are the National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR), Wichita Area Technical College (WATC) and the National Center for Aviation Training. Through these powerful entities and strong partnerships with industry, we have we have developed an unparalleled system for workforce training in the aerospace sector.

The National Center for Aviation Training, funded by Sedgwick County allows, for a strong partnership between NIAR and WATC. One that allows students in workforce training programs such as advanced coatings, composites and advanced materials, nondestructive testing and robotics to work side-by-side with research engineers in their fields. Through this unique model, students are able to learn technologies, skills and equipment that are currently being used in the industry – and often have experience with emerging technologies before they are readily adopted on the manufacturing floor.

This gives technicians and engineers trained in Wichita a huge advantage over those trained anywhere else. With other workforce training models, an employer must invest anywhere from six months to two years training a new employee on equipment, protocols, etc. Wichitans hit the ground running! When companies realize this advantage, it helps Wichita recruit and maintain jobs – making our city a better place for all of us!

Just as these organizations and companies have worked so closely to strengthen Wichita’s aviation and engineering workforce, they have also come together to plan and execute a world-class hands-on learning experience for the engineers, pilots and mechanics of the future. A spark that will ignite a flame, allowing Wichita to maintain its reputation as the Air Capital of the World.

John Tomblin, Ph.D.

WSU Vice President for Research and Technology Transfer
Executive Director, National Institute for Aviation Research

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