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New Harrison County Academy of Aviation Technology Classes to be Housed at Bridgeport High School

By Connect-Bridgeport Staff on September 04, 2019 via Connect-Bridgeport.com

The Harrison County Board of Education has started the Harrison County Academy of Aviation Technology to enable students from across the county to begin studying aviation as early as ninth grade. 
 
Rafe Snell, director of the program, said this will introduce students to the field of aviation with the goal of preparing them to enter the workforce or a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved program
 
“Aviation is a $1 billion industry in our area and in order for it to continue to grow and prosper it needs an educated and ready-to-work workforce,” he said. “This will teach them about aviation career options and if they complete all four courses, they will be in a position to further their aviation goals.” 
 
Courses I and II are designed to prepare students who might pursue the technical education necessary to receive their FAA Airframe and Powerplant certifications. Courses III and IV focus on piloting and engineering in more depth. 
 
“This curriculum is a multifaceted approach to problem solving. The students will be engaged in many cross-curricular activities as they work through projects because all projects have math, science, and English Language Arts components directly related to project completion,” he said. “These projects are real aviation projects that need real solutions, therefore a student or student team might very well solve an industry problem.” 
 
While the program will be located at Bridgeport High School, Principal Matt DeMotto said this is a great opportunity for students and he is excited to see it take off. 
 
“I’m looking forward to seeing our young people learn to problem solve, work together to meet a challenge they’ve been given, to see the model planes they design, build and fly,” he said. “This is just the tip of the iceberg. This program will benefit all aspirations of those interested in this industry. It is appropriate for the student who aspires to be the person who wants to build the plane, drone or rocket as well as the person who wants to maintain any of the above. It’s appropriate for the student who doesn’t want to pursue a four-year degree and it’s appropriate for the person who aspires to be the engineer.”
 
Superintendent Dr. Mark Manchin said this program is another step towards offering students in Harrison County more Community and Technical Education (CTE) options with the pathway to go straight into a career after high school or continue with secondary education. 
 
“The role of the Board of Education is to prepare our students for the future. This program is providing students an avenue to consider before they walk across that stage at their high school,” he said. “They’ll be prepared to go directly into the world of work or take another year to get a licensure or certificate and make a good living wage.”
 
With the need of professionals to fill jobs in the aviation industry and the hub located at the North Central West Virginia Airport and the industrial park, Manchin said adding aviation just made sense. 
 
“Senator Mike Romano was just talking about how there are currently 250 jobs open here in Harrison County between Boeing, Bombardier, Pratt-Whitney, and they need a trained workforce,” he said. “If we can get them to complete this program or almost completed by the time they graduate, they will go on to be successful.” 
 
Tracy Miller, president of the Mid-Atlantic Aerospace Complex, said it’s important to educate students on what careers are available here in North Central West Virginia, especially when it comes to the aerospace industry. 
 
“This is the center hub, all of the growth we’re doing at the airport, we cannot do without a skilled workforce,” she said. “If they want to fly an airplane, work on airplane, or be an air traffic controller, the students are getting exposed through this amazing program to all of those careers.” 
 
Miller noted that students will be able to go straight from the program after high school into general employment as ticket or bag agents at the airport meaning there are opportunities for direct employment without continuing education. 
 
“We have schools like Fairmont State where students can learn to become a pilot, Pierpont to go into their aviation mechanic program, and even West Virginia University that offers aerospace and mechanical engineering up to a doctorate degree,” she said. “We want to make sure we have jobs in place to keep West Virginians in West Virginia and we bring people home that want to come home.”
 
Editor's Note: Top photo shows a few of the students from across the county that will take part in the new program, while administrators from Harrison County Schools are shown in the second photo. Bottom photo shows school, elected and industry officials joining with students to cut the ribbon on the converted classroom space at Bridgeport High School. 
 



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