WITC-Superior launches new program to support Kestrel Aircraft manufacturing processMoving at the speed of business may sound like a slogan of UPS, but some could argue the same thing about Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College in Superior as they launch a new program developed to help students launch careers with Kestrel Aircraft Co.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
Moving at the speed of business may sound like a slogan of UPS, but some could argue the same thing about Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College in Superior as they launch a new program developed to help students launch careers with Kestrel Aircraft Co.
It was July 2011 when when local officials approached Alan Klapmeier, Kestrel Aircraft’s chief executive office about bringing the company to Superior.
By July of this year — just two years later — remodeling will begin for the first 20 students to participate in an aviation composite technology program at the technical college in Superior.
Students have the option of earning a two-year associate degree or three-semester technical diploma if they already have their general education courses out of the way, said Charlie Glazman, dean of continuing education at WITC. The program will admit its first 20 students in August; another 20 students will have the opportunity to participate in the program in January, just two years after Klapmeier announced Kestrel was coming to Superior to build its K-350. The single-engine turboprop, carbon composite airplane that seats six to eight is being designed with performance standards for comfort, safety, versatility and convenience.
WITC partnered with Kestrel Aircraft to get a Wisconsin Covenant Foundation grant to develop the program.
“We started asking ourselves ‘what are we going to be able to do for these guys?’” Glazman said. “Sure, they’ll be hiring a few welders, some machinists, but there’s got to be something else.”
In talking with company officials, Glazman said WITC discovered one of the needs the company would have is for composite technicians.
“These are people who can take carbon fiber in rolling pieces of cloth and layer them upon one another, introduce resins and harders, compact to draw resin through it and bake it so it becomes as hard as steel,” Glazman said. “It takes a unique set of skills to be able to do something like that.”
Glazman said with no other program like it to teach the necessary skill in the state, WITC had to build the program from the ground up.
Steve Serfling, chief operating officer for Kestrel Aircraft, said the work to turn the carbon fiber into a structure that will be used in the plane is very exacting.
“One of the key things we talked about early on was the composite technology to make this airplane,” Serfling said. “It may sound simple, but you have to be very, very anal because the precision that we have to make the airplane and the process we use to make the airplane is very, very specific.”
Kestrel worked with Glazman and his team to develop the syllabus for the courses and will provide some of the materials needed to teach the program, in addition to offering internship opportunities to students to give them experience in the field.
“For a new business to grow, it needs to have the right kind of talent,” Klapmeier said. He said the right foundation and technical skill can take someone any place they want to go.
In addition to the new aviation composite technology program, WITC will also be offering a new online course in early childhood education, IT computer systems specialist and an HR management program coming in the fall, said Jena Vogtman, marketing and public relations associate with WITC.
“I am very proud of being able to promote and recognize the technical colleges in Wisconsin, especially in Superior, said Mayor Bruce Hagen. Hagen joined force with Douglas County Board Chairman to declare February Career and Technical Education month during an event to announce the new courses at WITC.
More information about the new programs will be posted on WITC website in the next few weeks. Go to witc.edu.