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Preparing for the Future of the Aerospace Industry

Published by Sigurd De Keyser on Fri Nov 17, 2006 9:49 pm
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Starchaser Press Release: Las Cruces, NM – It has been said that the success of any national, state or local community economic endeavor is directly related to the strength of its educational systems. In anticipation of the workforce needs of the space industry in southern New Mexico, Doña Ana Community College, in association with the National Aerospace Technical Education Center, is launching the Aerospace Technology degree option. It is anticipated that the first courses will be offered fall semester of 2007. According to Jerry Welch, Dean of DACC’s Technical and Industrial Studies Division, this aerospace technology degree will qualify students for national certification as an aerospace technician as well as address the technical workforce needs unique to the commercial space industry.

The National Aerospace Technical Education Center (SpaceTEC®) based at Brevard Community College (Cocoa, Florida) and housed in facilities at Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station was established by SpaceTec®, a consortium of Community Colleges for Innovative Technology Transfer, through a three-year $3 million grant award by the National Science Foundation. Dona Ana Community College is a member of this consortium.

SpaceTec® formalizes aerospace technician education nationally and has established a skills-based standards program with industry-wide endorsement. Their vision is to be the focal point for aerospace related technical education by providing motivation and resources for academic studies, and professional development for faculty, students, and aerospace employees. Their mission is to create and implement an industry-driven, government-endorsed, technical education process for aerospace technicians that can be shared with other educational venues.

According to Dr. Margie Huerta, campus executive officer for DACC, the college is making several strategic steps toward providing the appropriate curriculum for tomorrow’s anticipated workforce needs. “DACC was one of only ten community colleges in the State to receive funding from Governor Richardson’s office for the development of a career technical center. The close to $1 million was received in partnership with Las Cruces Public Schools, whose high school students will participate in programs offered at the center,” Dr. Margie Huerta said. The career technical center will be housed in the DACC Workforce Center on Nevada Street in Las Cruces and the programs offered will include electronics, aerospace technology, manufacturing, and apprenticeship opportunities. The project is expected to be completed by next year,” she added. “This program will allow New Mexico students to plan their futures here at home,” said Rick Homans, Cabinet Secretary of the New Mexico Economic Development Department. “High technology companies will also benefit, as they won’t have to look far for a skilled and educated workforce.”

In a recent meeting at the college, Huerta and Starchaser Industries CEO, Steven Bennett, agreed to establish a collaboration whereby many of the workforce needs of Starchaser Industries, a New Mexico-based corporation and Spaceport America customer, would be addressed through DACC programs. “What Starchaser has planned for western Dona Ana County is a long-term development project costing upwards of $100 million that will generate employment opportunities for at least 300 people from both Luna and Dona Ana counties. While a portion of those jobs will be high tech and aerospace-related, other jobs created during the next ten years will be from various other disciplines. Dona Ana Community College will play a vital role in providing trained workers ready to address the needs of both Starchaser and other companies in the emerging commercial space industry,” Bennett said.

As Spaceport America develops, collaborations with leaders in the commercial space industry will become increasingly more important. Lonnie Sumpter, executive director of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority, agrees that collaborations between industry, education and community will help further the future of space-related activities in the region. “This is an outstanding example of the kind of joint industry and community effort that will help make the spaceport a success and secure a bright future for many young people in southern New Mexico,” Sumpter said. “I fully support it and know that it will pay many dividends for all. Lonnie Sumpter Executive Director Spaceport,” he added.

As the era of commercial space access progresses, DACC will continue to offer its constituents the opportunity to become a part of a sophisticated and well-trained workforce ready to support the economic future of southern New Mexico. “As southern New Mexico attracts more of the up-and-coming commercial space companies and all of the associated industry providers, the need for a trained workforce will continue to grow. Starchaser plans to create a space tourist destination in southern New Mexico that will provide high tech entertainment for all levels of space enthusiasts. We believe that through our efforts, with Starchaser’s emphasis on education and our determination to bring the excitement of the industry to ordinary people everywhere, we will be able to ignite a renewed interest in science and mathematics. There is no simple way to determine the long-term economic effect of this approach, however we do recognize the impact of people being able to actually put their hands on the rockets we have flown. Young people and old alike are enthused and ready to become involved with space activities in whatever ways are available to them,” Bennett added.

For more information regarding Dona Ana Community College please visit http://dabcc.nmsu.edu
For more information about Starchaser Industries, please visit www.starchaser.co.uk

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