National Institute of Aerospace reacts to fears over fading dominance

Fearing the loss of US dominance in technical advances and market leadership in aerospace, the US Congress com­missioned the National Insti­tute of Aerospace (NIA) to prepare a detailed five-year plan on initiatives and funding needed to shore up America's position in the market.

As part of the report, released this month, several proposals were suggested relating to training, employment and the workforce, designed to ensure the industry attracts talent and to try and fulfil the potential of those who enter the industry.

The main proposals were:

Aeronautics coalitions for education

Under this proposal, coalitions of universities offering aerospace degrees, industrial partners, vocational schools, trade schools, community colleges and primary and secondary schools would help manage the development of students aiming for careers in aerospace.

The coalitions would entail much closer working between academia and the industry, to provide students with more hands-on experience during their studies and instruction directly from industry personnel.

"No one should have to wait until after high school to be exposed to engineering," says John Brighton, assistant director for engineering, National Science Foundation. "How many high school students do not know enough to even consider engineering as a career path and how much of a loss is that?"

Ambassadors programme

Attracting students to aeronautics courses in sufficient numbers to maintain a steady flow of talent into the industry is a problem that all parts of the industry and US educational apparatus should get involved in, the report says. It proposes a scheme whereby it would become part of the duties of some university faculty members and aerospace industry personnel to spend time in schools, raising awareness of the career opportunities available in aerospace and encouraging students to take advantage of them.

Tailored modules and activities would maximise the impact of the programme and the report estimates that $10 million would be required to make the scheme fully effective. One-on-one contact between members of the industry and potential recruits to it would be the key element.

Bridge programme

The report highlights the low numbers of women and minority students en­tering the industry, with enrolments in aerospace pro­­grammes comprising around 15% of each. This is attributed to too few women and minorities being suf­ficiently prepared at school in subjects such as science and maths.

Another $10 million for universities and colleges to create bridge programmes providing refresher courses and summer camps in maths, physics and science for women and minority students between school and university might help to redress this disadvantage, the NIA report suggests.

Source: Flight International