A recent grant awarded to the University of Oklahoma will enable the creation and retention of jobs in the aerospace industry and accelerate Oklahoma’s economic recovery due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Aerospace Workforce Development and Venture Support effort, funded through the 2020 Public Works and Economic Adjustment Assistance Programs through the CARES Act, is primarily focused on three initiatives: grow an educated aerospace workforce with specific skill sets that align and meet employer needs; support aerospace venture creation; and establish and expand on industry relationships.
One way in which the effort aims to grow an educated aerospace workforce is through the development of a professional certificate in embedded secure software engineering. John Antonio, senior associate vice president for research and partnerships, said the program is designed to enable both working professionals and current students to gain the skills needed to be successful in secure embedded software engineering and will provide relevant hands-on experience in co-design and maintenance of complex hardware and software systems.
“Properly trained individuals are needed to fill thousands of vacant positions and will allow more Oklahoma aerospace and defense companies to grow,” he said. “Certificate programs will be developed, including online delivery options, that will target professionals in Oklahoma and across the country seeking advanced training and credentialing in this area of study.”
Likewise, the AWDVS effort will enable new machine training and prototyping experiential programs for undergraduate and graduate students in partnership with local aerospace leaders. It will expand OU’s prototyping capabilities, provided through student support at the Tom Love Innovation Hub, to offer advanced fabrication to local aerospace-related startups and small businesses. An example of one such new prototyping capability is a waterjet cutting machine that provides safer, precision cutting of virtually any material, including carbon fiber, with high quality, precise results.
“These no- to low-cost fabrication services lower the bar for entrepreneurs hoping to launch their aerospace-focused startup while simultaneously providing a practicum environment for students interested in aerospace careers,” said Tom Wavering, executive director of the Tom Love Innovation Hub.
Support for aerospace venture creation will also create the formation of a team of Oklahoma’s aerospace industry experts to mentor local entrepreneurs launching their own aerospace ventures across the state. By assembling such a cohort, Wavering said, the “critical and timely insights of mentors will augment existing programs, such as OU’s award-winning OK Catalysts Programs, to accelerate the success of these promising aerospace startups.”
“The EDA Cares Act Grant will enable OU to offer support to our aerospace and defense partners, helping to grow the second largest industry in Oklahoma,” said Joyce Burch, director of the Office of Corporate Partnerships and Regional Economic Development for the OU Office of the Vice President for Research and Partnerships. “The Aerospace Workforce Development and Venture Support effort further illustrates OU’s commitment to becoming a thought leader and valued collaborator in aerospace, defense, and global security.”