CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — Harrison County administrators recently had the chance to tour the classroom space at Bridgeport High School that will soon become the county’s new Academy of Aviation Technology.

The Harrison County Board of Education, along with representatives of local aerospace companies, held a roundtable in April to discuss developing technical education courses aimed at preparing students for careers in the aerospace industry.

Superintendent Dr. Mark Manchin said they’re still working closely with those industry leaders to develop the program.

“We’re working very closely with an advisory group of aerospace people,” Manchin said. “It’s not just engineers, but there are a myriad of jobs that can be created in this industry, and we’re going to provide them the working-class individuals so that they can fulfill some of these jobs that they’re wanting.”

Manchin said leaders with companies like Bombardiere and Pratt & Whitney have said there will be hundreds of new jobs opening in just the next few years.

“We’re talking between $48,000 and $50,000, and sometimes $52,000 entry level. Now they need training,” he said.

That training is what Manchin said “education is all about.”

“We have one role in education, those of us entrusted with the education of your children, and that’s preparing them for the future,” he said.

While public schools are doing a great job of college prep, that’s not the only avenue West Virginia’s students take following graduation.

“A vast majority are not going to go to four-year institutions, but they do need post-secondary education and we’re recognizing that,” Manchin said.

“We’re here for one express purpose — to provide them the necessary training, resources and knowledge to be successful in life,” he added. “That’s our only role. That’s what education is. That’s what we’re demanded of.”

In addition to the Academy of Aviation Technology, Harrison County Schools will also offer a tuition waiver program with WVU’s Health Sciences & Technology Academy.

“We’re preparing those students to go to college, which will be tuition free. There is a tuition waiver for those students that are selected, and even post-graduate work, even medical school if that’s what they wish to do,” Manchin said.

Ten students will be selected for the tuition waiver at the beginning of the program.