HANCOCK COUNTY, Miss. (WLOX) - Pearl River Community College will break ground Tuesday morning on the Phil Bryant Aviation and Aerospace Technology Academy in Hancock County.
The facility is being built at Stennis International Airport and is possible thanks to a $2 million grant from the Department of Economic Development Administration (EDA). That grant will be matched with more than $3.9 million in state and local investments and is expected to help create 469 jobs, retain 550 jobs, and generate $5 million in private investments.
Leaders of the community college say this program will help provide more skilled employees for the workforce which, in turn, will hopefully bring new companies to the area. Students will be able to study things like welding, precision manufacturing, instrumentation, industrial electronics, and more.
Hancock County Port & Harbor Commission CEO Bill Cork says that Tuesday’s groundbreaking is a big step in the right direction for Mississippi’s space industry. “As we have great ambitions to convert Stennis International Airport into a global air and space port, you’re gonna have to have a specialized workforce to address the life cycle needs of those companies. This is a first step in the workforce development arena to try to build those programs," said Cork.
The academy will by an estimated 25,000 square feet and will consist of eight classrooms, five labs, lobby with reception area, faculty and staff offices, break room/kitchenette for staff, indoor sitting/vending area for students and an outdoor courtyard sitting area. That facility is expected to be complete in 2021.
“The PRCC Hancock Aviation Aerospace Workforce Academy will not only be a state-of-the-art, accessible and affordable campus for the students in Hancock County, but it will also provide a steady pipeline of skilled workers to our local businesses and industries today and in the future,” PRCC Director of Government and Community Relations Angie Kothmann said.
The hangar, which should be finished by the end of 2020, will be an estimated 18,000 square feet and will consist of: two classrooms with labs, open hangar area with hands-on lab stations, outdoor covered area for equipment training, lobby with reception area, faculty and staff offices, break room/kitchenette for staff, small vending area for students. The hangar will offer the following programs: Airframe & Propulsion Technology, Unmanned Arial Systems and Precision Manufacturing.
Every classroom and lab will be designed to be multi-functional and versatile to constantly fit the changing needs of the businesses and industries in this area. Programs listed are the core offerings to start, but they can be changed and added to at any time.
The academy will offer diverse educational opportunities including academic, career and technical and workforce programs.
The academy will offer the following programs: Instrumentation, Industrial Electronics Technology, Practical Nursing, Welding & Cutting Technology, Computer Aided Design & Drafting, Business Management Technology, Academic Courses, Workforce Programs, Adult Education/GED.
The programs that will be new to the Hancock location upon its opening are Instrumentation, Airframe & Propulsion Technology, Industrial Electronics Technology, Precision Manufacturing, Computer Aided Design & Drafting and Business Management Technology.
The Aviation Maintenance Technology program is an instructional program that prepares individuals to inspect, repair, service, and overhaul aircraft engine components and systems. This program is designed to prepare the student for the Federal Aviation Administration exams for certification as an Aircraft Maintenance Technician. Industry standards referenced are from the Federal Aviation Regulations, Part 147, Aviation Maintenance Technician Schools (Airframes and Power Plants).
Congressman Palazzo and Sens. Cindy-Hyde Smith and Roger Wicker all worked together to secure the funding and make the project a reality.
“Workforce training and development have become a critical part of sustaining Mississippi’s leadership in the aviation and aerospace industries,” Wicker said. “I appreciate President Trump and the Department of Commerce for making technical training a priority across our country. The students trained at this new facility at Stennis will graduate with the skills they need to be successful and contribute to our state’s economic growth.”
“This Aviation and Aerospace Workforce Academy will be an exciting and concrete example of what can be accomplished through a solid vision and strong public-private partnerships,” Hyde-Smith said. “The EDA award complements local, state, and private investments that support the jobs in the growing aerospace industry in Mississippi.”
“Pearl River Community College is committed to strengthening and training Mississippi’s workforce and this grant will only further that support to our state,” Palazzo said. “Many advancements in aerospace have come from or through Mississippi and I look forward to this grant continuing that progress.”
This type of cutting-edge work, Governor Phil Bryant said, is nothing new to the state. “We’ve been testing for Apollo and the Shuttle program and we will help send man and woman to the moon one day starting right here in Hancock County," Bryant said.
Not unlike the Apollo and shuttle vehicles, these students’ space education will start in Mississippi too. “Just to think that young men and women, when they’re working on the moon one day, when they’re there at that base that we will stop off until we go to Mars, they will be talking about when they were educated here in Hancock County, at this facility. Others will come up and say that’s exactly where I went to school. It’s gonna be an exciting future for the young men and women, that come here at this Pearl River facility for aerospace and aviation," Bryant said.