NIU is joining an effort to help maintain the Rockford region’s status as one of the leading aerospace clustersin the country.
Representatives from NIU and the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology joined Rockford-area leaders today to announce a new, community-based initiative that will significantly increase the region’s aerospace talent pipeline for high-paying jobs. Establishment of the Joint Institute of Engineering & Technology-Aerospace(JiET-A) combines three components to reach that goal:
- Real-world experience and support through internships, mentorships and scholarships.
- Employment by local aerospace companies.
One of the aerospace industry’s greatest needs is finding qualified talent during a national shortage of engineers, scientists and technicians. More than 30,000 new airplanes are forecast for delivery in the next 20 years, speakers said at at news conference in Rockford. What’s more, aerospace wages are double the average per-capita income in the Rockford area. “By growing our aerospace cluster, we increase the wealth of our community by adding more high-paying jobs and the resulting positive multiplier effects they bring,” said NIU alumna Janyce Fadden, president of the Rockford Area Economic Development Council and a partner in JiET-A. “This is essential to create more long-term wealth for our community.” Jeff Kaney, chair of the Rockford Area Aerospace Network and CEO of Kaney Group, said workforce development is among the six components to RAAN’s leadership model. “A great industry like aerospace deserves a great workforce pipeline of qualified and talented employees,” Kaney said. “However, recruiting and hiring is one of its biggest challenges. It’s very expensive and there’s a talent shortage. So, it makes sense for this community to pool our resources and solve this problem in a collaborative way that will enrich our community, to control our own future.” Rockford’s cluster is one of the leading aerospace employment centers in the country. Winnebago County is home to four tier-one aerospace suppliers, and the larger bi-state region includes more than 200 tier-two and tier-three companies. JiET-A unites regional educational institutions – NIU, Rock Valley College, Rockford College and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University– and aerospace companies in a combined effort to enhance students’ experiences and guide them to a successful transition from school to the aerospace workforce. Students attending four local participating colleges and universities will have the opportunity to participate in high-quality internships that are integrated into their academic curricula. When the JiET-A students graduate, they will bring valuable skills and experience into the regional aerospace workforce.
“It is important for RVC students to have a seamless transfer into Northern Illinois University. At the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology, we have worked hard to create 2 + 2 arrangements that are now available on our website,” Dean Promod Vorha said. “The JiET-A program is a unique model that will prove to be functional and addresses the technical workforce needs of the Rockford community. I am confident that it has full industrial participation, and I remain excited about building the pipeline of future engineers.” Thus far, six aerospace businesses are committed to providing integrated internship experiences: B/E Aerospace, Comply365, GE Aviation, Hamilton Sundstrand, Kaney Group and Woodward. This is a mix of tier-one, tier-two and tier-three aerospace companies that will provide a variety of work experiences for the interns. JiET-A expects more aerospace companies to participate, and the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois and the Rockford Chamber of Commerce soon will announce a plan to support JiET-A with scholarships. For more information, contact Bill Kroll, JiET-A institute development lead, at [email protected] or (815) 969-4269.