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Workforce Helps Aerospace Take Flight in N.C.

By Loren Hill President, High Point Economic Development Corp.
By Brent Christensen President and CEO, Greensboro Chamber of Commerce

Thanks to millions in investment and new tailored workforce training for Gen Z and above, aerospace manufacturing is reaching new heights in Guilford County, N.C. Home to 200 aerospace companies and 400 suppliers, North Carolina has the second-fastest growing aerospace business cluster in the country. And in the center of the state sits Guilford County—and its major cities of Greensboro and High Point—the state’s leader in manufacturing jobs and No. 3 in the Southeast.

Major aviation companies like HAECO and HondaJet have chosen to invest in the Greensboro-High Point region for its experienced engineering workforce and ample development-ready land. HondaJet, for example, broke ground in August on a new $15.5 million expansion to its R&D campus at Piedmont Triad International Airport (PTI), bringing its total investment at PTI to $245 million. And with $100 million in expansions and upgrades currently underway at PTI, the region is primed to welcome more aviation leaders.

As communities across the nation face the manufacturing talent shortage, Guilford County is putting its resources behind hands-on training programs for talent of all ages and backgrounds to ensure that companies have the workforce pipeline they need to thrive in our region.

This fall, five Guilford County high schools began a pilot $7 million Career Technical Education (CTE) program to train students for jobs including manufacturing, metal fabrication, HVAC, electrical engineering, and eventually cybersecurity. The program will enable students to earn a two-year certification required for most aerospace jobs, leading them to pursue employment directly out of high school.

Similarly, the Guilford Apprenticeship Partners (GAP) program prepares students for the workforce, providing high school students paid apprenticeships in advanced manufacturing and aviation mechanics by partnering with local employers—including HAECO, whose global headquarters is located at PTI. Not only do these programs provide students with hands-on training for the jobs they’ll be applying for after graduation, they also allow industry partners to directly train and recruit rising talent. Now in its third year, the program is continuing to grow: in 2016 (the GAP program’s first year) four companies hired 14 apprentices; in 2017, GAP grew to 11 companies and 23 apprentices; and in 2018, there were 40 new apprentices working at 26 local companies.

On the higher education level, the third largest community college in North Carolina, Guilford Technical Community College (GTCC), is now home to the Center for Advanced Manufacturing, featuring cutting-edge technology to train students for in-demand jobs such as mechanics, welders and machine operators. In addition, GTCC offers top-notch aviation training with 36,000 ft2 (3,345 m2) of classroom and lab space that serves more than 200 students per day. These students will become pilots, aircraft technicians and aerospace manufacturing experts.

Guilford County leaders know that talent comes in many forms. For this reason, we are focused on training programs that are people-oriented, supporting individuals of all genders, ages, racial and economic backgrounds to pursue innovative careers in manufacturing.

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