ECU to pursue aviation industry institute

GREENVILLE (WITN) ECU leaders announced plans to pursue creating an aviation institute of excellence after a round table discussion about growing the aviation industry in our state earlier this month.

North Carolina is one of the fastest-growing aerospace areas in the country.
The proposed institute would be a public-private partnership that would create a workforce pipeline.

It would also promote research.

Leaders from ECU, the state legislature, and Spirit Aerosystems -based at Kinston’s Global Transpark - met Monday to come up with an action plan.

Keith Wheeler, with ECU Office of National Security and Industry Initiatives, said, "They're a global organization, they're the largest aerostructure manufacturer in the world and we're trying to help them prove that Eastern North Carolina up to the task of creating this sustainable workforce pipeline."

Spirit Airlines leaders say they're also partnering with Lenoir Community College.

"We want to build our future workforce here in the region of Eastern Carolina and so we're here to stay so we want to make sure that we have that workforce to grow not only our company but the industry as a whole,” said Brian Black.

Nearly 70 percent of Spirits workforce demand requires a technical certificate or degree and not a four-year degree.

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ECU's Workforce Development board, major aerospace companies and government representatives gathered to discuss how to grow the aviation industry.

ECU hosted Spirit Aerosystems, other aviation aerospace companies, community colleges and military installations, as well as congressional and state leadership Friday.

They talked of potentially creating an aviation industry institute where all organizations present would collaborate to provide opportunities to ECU and community college students.

Vice Chancellor Jay Golden says this would help close the skills gap between eastern Carolina workers and the industry's positions.

"We have a solid infrastructure base. We have the research capabilities of ECU and our other partners and so now it's time for us to all get together to really make sure that we have the workforce that is going to be required as the sectors grow," said Golden.

Golden said there is room for innovation in the industry, citing possibilities such as drones, satellites and other autonomous vehicles.