WSU Tech is launching an innovative scholarship program to bolster the local aviation workforce. The program, titled “Wichita Promise Move,” is seeking to entice potential workers from outside the Wichita area with a generous package of academic and relocation perks at no cost to the student.
Through the program, participants who live at least 75 miles outside of the Wichita area will have expenses for relocation, housing and cost of living covered along with tuition and fees for eligible training programs at WSU Tech. The program will provide certifications and credentials, personal career coaching, a guaranteed job interview at the end of the program and a potential signing bonus upon hiring with a local aviation company.
“Wichita Promise Move is designed to help break down the barriers that keep individuals from getting trained,” says Sheree Utash, president of WSU Tech. “Whether those barriers are financial, location, time or the fear of failing, we are ready to help anyone get the training they need to get a career and ultimately a better life.”
During development of the program, WSU Tech worked with local aviation and manufacturing companies—such as Spirit AeroSystems and Textron Aviation—to determine where the greatest need was for skilled labor. Currently, the two eligible training programs from WSU Tech’s technical programs are Aviation Sheetmetal Assembly and Process Mechanic Painter. In addition to these two areas being identified as an essential recruitment need for Wichita’s aviation industry, the programs are quick to complete—the college says both programs take just 6-8 weeks.
According to a spokesperson for WSU Tech, the school is not opposed to considering its other aviation tracks—such as aviation maintenance—in the future if they identify an industry need for those careers. She adds that the length of WSU Tech’s A&P program would be more challenging with regards to funding, which the school would need to take into consideration.
The Wichita Promise Move program is being funded mainly through a grant of $500,000 from the Wichita Community Foundation. The Foundation’s decision to provide the grant was inspired by WSU Tech’s already existing Wichita Promise scholarship program, which was launched in 2016 and has already helped hundreds of students achieve training and employment at aviation companies within Wichita.
“We have seen the impact Wichita Promise has already made on the lives of people in our community. They are getting trained and hired, making impressive wages for entry-level positions,” says Shelly Prichard, president and CEO of the Wichita Community Foundation. “We know there are others in the U.S. who can benefit from this opportunity. They need the economic professional opportunity, and Wichita companies need their expertise and talents.”
According to WSU Tech, other Wichita organizations and businesses have stepped up to help the Wichita Promise Move program after the community announcement of the grant was made. Local company Bonavia Industries has offered to contribute $80,000 worth of free housing to participating students and the school says other companies are providing discounts on housing and furniture rentals, as well as smaller contributions such as hosted dinners. “It’s been really cool to see the community come together to support this because they know there is a need and they want to be a part of it,” says a spokesperson for WSU Tech.
For now, the Wichita Promise Move program is limited to the first 50 students who meet the program’s eligibility requirements. The first opportunity to begin classes within the program will be in September or October. According to WSU Tech, the hope is that the program can be repeated yearly moving forward.