BALDWIN COUNTY, Ala. (WALA) - Baldwin County schools will soon be offering aerospace engineering for students in tenth grade and up. The Baldwin County School Board has formed an unprecedented partnership to make it happen.
It's a partnership like we've not seen before. A K - 12 school system, colleges and the private sector teaming up to get the biggest bang for the buck. The Baldwin County Board of Education, Faulkner State Community College, Enterprise State Community College and the Fairhope Airport Authority are pooling their resources to build a $2.5 million aerospace educational training center.
"The training materials are very expensive and without the partnerships of the community and our other sister two year institutions and K through 12, we wouldn't be able to afford that, but with this cooperative venture we can all make it work together," said Dr. Nancy Chandler, president of Enterprise State Community College.
High school students throughout the county will be able to enroll in curriculum that will train them in the fields of aero frame maintenance, welding and mechanical engineering. With Airbus moving to Mobile and a growing need for aerospace technicians world-wide, the facility will offer students a great opportunity to jumpstart their career in aviation. Several engineering students from Fairhope High School were at the announcement and are excited by the possibilities.
"Fixing anything is fun, but being able to fix planes that most people don't get to see any time is really interesting so it would be really fun to do that," said Fairhope High School senior, Jon Patrick Sherling.
"Having this is just really good timing and with the kids, it will spark their interest into something that they may not have thought they'd be interested in and they can go in it and have a job," added junior Allie Baumhower.
It's not just huge companies like Airbus that are in need of more aerospace engineers. Smaller companies like Continental Motors' factory services wing in Fairhope has had an increased need for air frame technicians and mechanics just in the last few years.
"These jobs that will be offered through the school will not only be for Airbus," said Michael Gifford, Continental Motors' Director of Factory Services. "Everything from your light single pleasure aircraft…single engine to your commercial airliners and also sheet metal fabrication, machining…there's a lot of opportunities right now."
The 15,000 square foot educational facility will be constructed on the grounds of the H. L. "Sonny" Callahan Airport in Fairhope. The Fairhope Airport Authority will provide the land and pay for the construction. The Baldwin County School Board will enter a multi-decade lease to cover the Airport Authority's cost and the two colleges will provide equipment and instructors. Everyone involved says it's a win-win situation.
"We'll bring our students here," said Baldwin County Schools Superintendent, Dr. Alan T. Lee. "They'll provide the instructors. They'll provide the equipment and then adults will be able to take advantage of this too so it's going to be a boon for this county and a boon for anybody that wants to get an education"
The partnership will allow for college and adult students to participate along side the high school students. The next step is to draw up the plans with the hopes to begin construction as soon as possible. They are hoping for a completion date in January of 2014.
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