CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The aerospace and aviation industry in the state of West Virginia took a significant step forward for growth on Friday.
Officials from the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE), Marshall University and the West Virginia Department of Commerce gathered at Yeager Airport for an aerospace industry partnership compact signing & ribbon cutting.
The partnership is meant to drive educational and economic advances in the state in the fields of flying, as Marshall University has its eyes set on a School of Aviation at Yeager in the near future.
“This is an opportunity for Marshall to expand its academic programs, bring flight schools to West Virginia and expand the aerospace industry,” Marshall University President Jerome Gilbert told the media.
“We are excited about creating jobs and providing educational opportunities for high school students that want to fly airplanes and helicopters.”
The compact signed by Gilbert, Yeager Airport Director Terry Sayre and Assistant Director Nick Keller, state Secretary of Commerce Ed Gaunch, and state Superintendent of Schools Steve Paine emphasize the state’s commitment to growing the aerospace field, bringing more opportunities for career technical education (CTE) students.
Five high schools in the state offer CTE Aerospace and Aviation Technology Programs including Brooke High School, Huntington High School, Oak Hill High School, Greenbrier East High School, and Liberty High School.
Three more programs at Bridgeport High School, Lincoln County High School, and Mingo Central High School are planned with this compact announcement.
“This means jobs for kids when they graduate high school,” Kim Cortines, an Aerospace & Aviation teacher at Oak Hill said. “This means there is another place for them to study aviation, another place for them to study aerospace. For Fayette County, it’s much closer to home for these kids than some of these northern places.”
Currently, in the state there are approximately 4,000 West Virginians that work in the aerospace sector within 22 companies.
Gilbert couldn’t be more excited with the partnership with the WVDE to provide a natural transfer for those CTE students interested in the Marshall Aviation Program.
“Any time that we can connect high school programing with a college program is great,” he said. “We are very excited that Kathy D’Antoni and Steve Paine have taken the initiative to say that they will support aerospace and aviation programs in the high schools and get those students interested.”
Marshall will become the second institution in the state to offer flight courses as Fairmont State University has a program. Gilbert said Marshall is attempting to partner with Tri-State Airport in Huntington and Mountwest Community and Technical College to offer 2-year degree programs in maintenance and work with FSU.
“We want to expand the aerospace industry in the state. We want to make the pie bigger for everyone,” Gilbert said.
“We’ve had an interest in aerospace for several years now. This is going to be a way for us to create jobs and also attract industry to the state. Innovating is important in our economy.”
The ribbon-cutting portion of the ceremony was for the Marshall school, which is set to open in fall 2021.
Gilbert said the program should receive final approval from the school’s board this fall and sign a contract to partner programs with Southern Utah University. From that point, Marshall and Yeager can begin plans for further construction on the newly built general aviation roadway and classrooms in South Charleston.
Sayre released a statement on Friday, “We are thrilled to have Marshall University locate here at Yeager Airport and to work with the state to alleviate the extreme pilot and aviation mechanic shortages we are facing.”