Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sen. Al Franken and Rep. Collin Peterson have announced a $4.7 million grant for targeted job training and workforce development at Northland Community and Technical College in Thief River Falls.
“This grant expresses the national importance of the growing remotely piloted aircraft industry and confirms Northland’s preeminence in developing and providing UAS maintenance training in this arena,” said NCTC President Dr. Anne Temte. Specifically, the grants will support a new degree in imagery analysis that will complement NCTC’s existing Unmanned Aircraft Systems Maintenance Technician program. The grants are part of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) initiative.
“This program will be aligned with the unmanned aerial systems program and will involve educating students to be involved in the gathering and analysis of images and data from various sources, primarily unmanned vehicles,” wrote Kent Hanson, NCTC vice president of academic and student affairs, as part of the “Notes from NCTC” column. “We are very excited about this new opportunity to expand our college offerings and be a leader in the emerging field and associated career paths related to unmanned aerial vehicle systems.”
In 2010, the college received a $4.9 million federal grant to develop and deliver the country’s first unmanned UAS Maintenance Training Center. The first UAS maintenance training class began in August 2011.
About the current grant award, Scott Fletcher, chief operating officer of NCTC’s aviation programs, said, “The unmanned aircraft industry is the fastest growing technology in aviation. The United States military now purchases more unmanned aircraft, and trains more pilots to fly RPAs, than traditionally manned aircraft. The civilian applications will be even larger in scope within a few years.”
In 2010, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International published the “Unmanned Aircraft System Integration into the United States National Airspace: An Assessment of the Impact of Job Creation in the U.S. Aerospace Industry.” In this document, AUVSI projected that between 2010 and 2025, more than 23,000 UAS jobs could be created, with more than $100 billion in revenue by the integration of unmanned aircraft into the national airspace.
With current military growth, and the future civilian potential, imagery analysts are a high-growth employment opportunity. Imagery analysts will facilitate the organization and dissemination of the information that unmanned aircraft vehicle sensors gather. Currently, this information is focused on military and security logistics. However, in future civilian applications, information may be focused on agricultural, weather or other scientific functions. It is the imagery analyst’s responsibility to get the information to the right individuals in a timely manner to be used effectively.
The grant will fund curriculum development, personnel, equipment, supplies and other program development-related expenses. James Retka, NCTC’s dean of workforce and economic development and the aviation programs, worked with Fox Consulting in Minneapolis to submit the grant earlier in the year.
Retka said, “This is a fantastic opportunity for Northland to continue to expand its growing expertise in unmanned systems technology. This Department of Labor-Trade Adjustment Act funding will allow Northland to provide high-tech programming to a wider variety of students, including working more closely with our partners in adult basic education, Minnesota Workforce Center network and Federal Workforce Investment Act programs.”
In a press release about the grants, Klobuchar said, “Community colleges play a critical role in ensuring our country has a highly-skilled workforce ready for the jobs of tomorrow. Support like this will help ensure that all Minnesotans have access to the education and job training they need to succeed in a global economy, creating more opportunities in the unmanned aircraft systems industry and other growing fields.”
Franken said, “Right now, too many Minnesotans are out of work while good-paying jobs across the state go unfilled because applicants lack the necessary skills. This funding will give more Minnesotans the training they need to succeed in those jobs now and in the future.”
Peterson said, “I’m proud of the efforts of all those who have worked hard to create the UAS maintenance tech program, and now the Imagery Analysis program. With the spinoff companies created by the UAS industry, Northland Community and Technical College is leading the way for students who will graduate with work in an industry that is growing rapidly and creating jobs.”
The TAACCCT initiative is designed to support partnerships between community colleges and employers to assist dislocated workers who are changing careers. The program is designed to equip workers with specific skill sets that are in demand by critical industries, such as advanced manufacturing, health care, and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. In addition, the program is designed to collect data on student outcomes, building knowledge about which strategies are most effective at placing graduates in high quality jobs.