In the News

WSU Tech partners with new NIAR team to pay aircraft students as they train

Wichita Business Journal | Daniel McCoy

WSU Tech has partnered with one of the newer entities at its parent school to help pay aircraft maintenance workers as they train.

The technical training arm of Wichita State University has teamed with the WERX division of the university’s National Institute for Aviation Research to create the Get to WERX program, which will both pay students and help them earn credits toward a bachelor’s degree.

The three-year program will put students to work full time on maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) projects through NIAR WERX, which recently launched scaled-up MRO plans from its facilities on the Air Capital Flight Line in southeast Wichita.

“This is an extraordinary chance for individuals to enter the aviation workforce and gain practical, real-world experience while earning their degree and certifications,” WSU Tech president Sheree Utash says in a press release. “This collaborative program sets the foundation for a scalable pipeline that will attract individuals from across the region to come to work and live in Wichita.” 

There will also be a focus on attracting talent to Wichita for the program, as the Greater Wichita Partnership is offering a $1,000 relocation reimbursement to the first 20 people accepted into the program from outside a 75-mile radius of Wichita.

All program participants will get jobs at NIAR WERX, which will also reimburse their tuition after each successfully completed term of the nine-semester program.

Completion of the full program will earn students an associate degree of applied science in aviation maintenance and make them eligible for certifications in airframe and power plant work through the Federal Aviation Administration.

Students will also have simultaneous enrollment at WSU and can put the WSU Tech credits toward a bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership and learning.

“This program will provide an applied learning experience like no other in the nation,” John Tomblin, WSU senior vice president of industry and defense programs and NIAR executive director, says in a press release. “Students will gain industry experience on real modification programs while under the supervision of some of the most experienced technicians and engineers in the field.”

The call for student-employees comes as WSU and other stakeholders work to boost MRO activity in Wichita, with NIAR WERX and its Kansas Modification Center seen as a new hub for that segment locally.

At an event last month welcoming a Boeing Co. 777 to the center that will be converted into a cargo jet, Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., said growing MRO locally will be an important part of keeping Wichita — known primarily for production work — ahead of the curve in aerospace.

“We can never rest on our laurels or our assets, because the competition is great,” Moran said.