Fueling Your Career with JiET-A

Academia, business, and community leaders work together to develop industry growth.

Jeff Kaney, RAAN chairman and CEO of Kaney Group, says, “The lack of qualified manpower is the No. 1 limiting factor to growth for our Rockford companies. We are faced with the challenge of recruiting and retaining qualified manpower. We needed a program to home grow and retain our talent and it makes sense for the Rockford community to pool our resources and solve this problem in a collaborative way.” One of their strategies was to develop an “Aerospace Talent Pipeline” to provide qualified replacement and future workers for the local and growing aerospace companies.

Joint Institute of Engineering & Technology, Aerospace (JiET-A)

RAEDC and RAAN collaborated and created the JiET-A to develop and support the “Aerospace Talent Pipeline.” Eric Voyles, vice president for National Business Development at RAEDC, says, “As more and more businesses are looking to relocate to Rockford, they are asking about the number of skilled workers in the area. That is why programs like JiET-A are crucial to developing our most important capital — our young people. Programs like JiET-A will bring dividends for them, their employers, and the community as a whole.”

Bill Kroll, a chief engineer at UTC Aerospace Systems and executive director of JiET-A, has coordinated pipeline construction and operations since before JiET-A’s official launch in June 2012, working with four colleges and universities and several recruiting and aviation companies for internships and mentorships. According to Kroll, graduating students from local school districts can build a development path with Rock Valley College, Northern Illinois University, Rockford College, or Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and will participate in high-quality internships that are integrated into their academic curricula.

This program is robust enough to develop graduates with advanced degrees in math and science, undergraduate degrees in engineering, certified assemblers, machinists, welders, avionics and A&P technicians, heat treating specialists, and so on. The JiET-A graduates will bring these valuable skills and experience into the regional aerospace workforce. Started in September 2012, they have had 117 engineering applicants, 81 students accepted, with 20 in internships at local companies and two hired as full-time employees at UTC Aerospace Systems.

One of the program graduates, mechanical engineer Carly Norton, agreed to talk about her experience with the JiET-A program. Asked how she learned about the program and was the mentorship and internship helpful in getting her a job, she replies, “I learned about the JiET-A program while attending a career fair at Northern Illinois University. Through discussions with Bill Kroll I learned that the JiET-A program matched my career goals and provided the flexibility to meet my existing schedule and commitments.

“The internship that Bill set up for me was vital to getting hired at UTC Aerospace Systems. Before that I didn’t know about all the aviation opportunities that I had in the Rockford area and thought I would have to move east or west for a career in aviation. My mentors were my advocates and helped promote my career within the company. The JiET-A program internship provides practical work experience. Now I am working on test equipment and actual aircraft systems and components. My full-time position is going to be designing aircraft actuation systems for different types of aircraft.”

Aircraft Maintenance Technology requested that she remember aircraft maintainers when designing these systems. “I was already thinking about that and certainly understand ease of access and maintainability because I have practical experience working on my Jeep Wrangler compared to working on my Mom’s late-model Camry.”

According to Jeff Kaney and Bill Kroll, JiET-A is a huge success and the pipeline is filling with local talent. Congratulations and don’t let up because local companies are expanding and new companies are moving into the area. “In 2012, B/E Aerospace opened a new $4 million, 40,000-square-foot ecosystems assembly facility in Rockford and secured an exclusive contract with Boeing to manufacture modular lavatory systems for the 737 Next-Generation family of airplanes. Forest City Gear broke ground on an 8,000-square-foot expansion, launching a new business, adding jobs, and will supply gears for the NASA Mars Rover: Curiosity project. In May 2013, Woodward broke ground on a $300 million, 440,000-square-foot second campus for its aircraft turbine systems business bringing in nearly 1,500 jobs.” In the Rockford MSA, business is thriving and thanks to JiET-A, so is the output of qualified aerospace workers. AMT

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