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S.C. Aeronautical Training Center: New pipeline for skilled workforce

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Barry Franco is dean of Trident Technical College’s Aeronautical Studies division.

S.C. Aeronautical Training Center at Trident Tech will provide training to meet demands in surging aircraft, automotive and other advanced manufacturing fields

The Charleston Regional Development Alliance touts Charleston as one of the fastest-growing midsize metro areas for aircraft manufacturing in the United States. The region is also one of the nation’s top 10 midsize metros for workforce growth in aircraft mechanics, computer hardware and electrical engineers.

Boeing’s growing presence in the Lowcountry, along with the expanding international airport, Joint Base Charleston and hub of suppliers filling the region, means aerospace workers are in demand.

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Trident Technical College is creating a pipeline of skilled engineering technicians and aeronautical specialists. The college currently has about 80 students in its Aeronautical Studies program. Students are divided between the Thornley Campus on Rivers Avenue in North Charleston and the Berkeley Campus in Moncks Corner.

Beginning in the 2019 fall semester, studies will be consolidated in the new South Carolina Aeronautical Training Center on Thornley Campus. The state-of-the-art facility has been seven years in the making — but will be worth the wait.

The three-story complex will house the three main tracks in Trident Tech’s Aeronautical Studies division: aircraft maintenance technology, avionics maintenance technology and aircraft assembly technology. The 218,000-square-foot facility also will house specialized training and advanced manufacturing through continuing education. On the third floor, readySC will conduct training for Boeing South Carolina.

Barry Franco, dean of Aeronautical Studies, said the new facility will “greatly increase the capacity to train more students for the aviation workforce.”

The center will accommodate close to 300 aviation maintenance and manufacturing students when the fall semester begins Aug. 26. Plus, the added space gives Trident Tech the opportunity to offer more courses.

“We hope in the near future to offer new programs and new collaborations with other colleges,” Franco said. “We have a lot of irons in the fire.”

Earning a degree or certificate from Trident Tech in one of the college’s programs essentially guarantees students a well-paying job. Volvo Cars and Mercedes-Benz also are interested in graduates because many of the skills overlap industries, Franco said.

“We have no trouble placing our grads,” he said. “They get to pick and choose where they want to go.”

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