Utah Stories

New Program Boosts Students from High School to High Tech Job

A new Utah initiative prepares students for aerospace careers.



Utah is working to prepare students for lucrative aerospace careers. Photo courtesy of Orbital ATK

No longer will high school students, interested in a career in aerospace, have to leave the state to see their dreams come true, thanks to Governor Gary R. Herbert’s announcement, on September 6, 2015, regarding the Utah Aerospace Pathways Program.

Funded by a $400,000 grant from the Utah Cluster Acceleration Partnership (UCAP), this  organization is comprised of The Department of Workforce Services (DWS), The Utah System of Higher Education (USHE) and The Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED). Together, these groups seek to, “strengthen the alignment between industry needs and educational programs.”  

According to the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, Utah is one of the top states in the nation when it comes to aerospace employment. Over 100 private aerospace firms  exist within the state, employing nearly 20,000 people. In addition, Hill Air Force Base adds another 20,000 jobs to this figure.   

“The creation of the Utah Aerospace Pathways program,” states Governor Herbert, “will benefit Utah students for generations to come.” This is among the first time industry partners and  K-12 educators are working closely together to directly address their workforce needs in the state.”

Complimenting Utah’s already well-established STEM program which promotes, “science, technology, engineering and math through best practices in education to ensure  connection with industry and Utah’s long-term economic prosperity,” students now have the opportunity to train and certify in aerospace manufacturing while still in high school. After spending 60 hours obtaining a certificate, students can then perform a 48-hour paid internship with an aerospace partner. Following the internship, they will be able to complete another 48 hours of training at Salt Lake Community College and the Davis Applied Technology College.

Once they receive their manufacturing certificate, students will then be able to become employed at one of the many aerospace program partners, where they will work in an entry-level position. Tuition reimbursements can also be obtained, with the hope that students will go on to pursue a career in the aerospace industry. The average salary for this industry is $68,000 with benefits.

Sandra Hermmert, Career and Technical Education Coordinator for Granite School District, states, “The response to this program has been powerful. Because of the support from so many credible aerospace companies, such as Boeing, as well as huge support from the governor’s office and other companies committed to building Utah’s economy, both parents and students have been very responsive.” She goes on to add, “People used to hear the word ‘technology’ and think vocational, but we now have kids flying airplanes and students working side-by-side with scientists.”

Michael Sullivan, Communications Director for the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, said, “It is too early to tell, [about how the program is going], since the program was just launched on September 6th, but we know we’ll over-reach our goals.” He also went on to add that, “we are looking to expand the program, so that it will apply to underemployed adults as well. For now, our goal is to see 40 to 60 students graduate in 2016 with a certificate.”

Sullivan also said it took a monumental amount of time and effort, in the six months they were given, to formulate this program that had to address everything from which classes would qualify, to tuition costs, to what if a student failed to comply with the program. He added that, as far as any other state providing a program like this, that, “we [the state of Utah]are it. We are the only functioning state that created a program that prepares students to go from high school student to a high tech job.”


For more information on The Utah Aerospace Pathways Program, contact Michael Sullivan, 801.538.8811 or mgsullivan@utah.gov.STEM-Logo-Action-Center-01lower

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