Tag Archives: Aviation Technology

Celebrating Aviation Technology

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Like any PCC graduation, the Aviation Technology ceremony was a family affair.

I was honored to deliver keynote remarks at our Aviation Technology completion ceremony last week. The event kicks off the start of the best time of year at PCC, graduation season. Over the next month, the College will celebrate the achievements of students at about a dozen ceremonies, including the 2017 Graduation at the Tucson Convention Center Arena on May 18.

Aviation technicians are “the surgeons of the sky” – highly-trained technicians who can diagnose and treat aircraft so that day after day they deliver passengers and cargo safely to their destinations. It’s a profession distinguished by high academic, industry and government standards. Our Airframe and Powerplant students attend class weekdays from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. for 19 months, receive more than 2,000 hours of instruction and take 100 tests.

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With Governing Board member Sylvia Lee and new Aviation Technology graduate Dennise Ponce.

It’s also a profession with tremendous employment opportunities. An estimated 25 percent of Arizona’s 17,500 civil aviation workers will reach retirement age in the next two years. Some 98,000 additional aviation technicians will be needed across North America over the next 20 years; worldwide, that number will exceed 675,000.

Through the hard work of Academic Director Jason Bowersock and the faculty and staff at the Aviation Technology Center, the program has a sterling reputation throughout the  industry. When one of our students mentioned during a recent job interview that he was attending PCC, for example, he was hired on the spot.

After the ceremony, PCC Governing Board Member Dr. Sylvia Lee and I visited with graduate Dennise Ponce. Dennise is from Nogales, and is considering a career in the armed forces or working for federal contractors. [She’s particularly interested in drones.] For Dennise and the 30 other students honored last week, the sky’s the limit.

Financial aid update

Below is a message sent to PCC employees last week regarding training for PCC administrators on the important topic of financial aid to students. The training focused on maintaining compliance with federal and state authorities and with our accrediting organizations.

Last Thursday, May 5, we held training for administrators on various compliance areas including some recently discovered PCC sites that do not appear to have gone through a required approval process with the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). This approval process is connected to federal financial aid (Title IV) regulations. At the conclusion of the training, we provided a short review of the training for other employees who were able to join us. This email includes a synopsis of the training and subsequent discussion. However, first I’d like to reiterate the importance of conversations like this.

Many of you have been proactively reviewing policies and procedures throughout the College to ensure that the institution is fully compliant with relevant regulations and requirements, especially those of the federal government and the HLC.

Together we’ve been able to uncover gaps or errors that needed to be corrected. We have self-disclosed to the HLC and the Dept. of Education the areas we’ve discovered, and we are working as a team to correct them. We have received compliments from our regulatory bodies for doing this, and they are working with us as we make these systemic changes throughout the College. Many of you have been part of this effort and your commitment to making things right shows how many people we have here at PCC who care deeply about the institution and our students.

Several aspects of how federal financial aid regulations impact College operations were reviewed in the training:

1. Selective Admissions – Students must be fully admitted into an eligible program before they can receive federal financial aid for that program. As of January 2016, PCC identified 26 programs that were not appropriately coded in Banner as having selective admission requirements, i.e. background checks or course prerequisites. As a result, some students were listed as admitted to a program even though they had not met all the program admissions requirements.
STATUS: IN PROGRESS. Programs are either being reconfigured so they are no longer Selective Admissions, or correctly coded as selective admissions. Students have been notified to either fulfill program admissions requirements or change their majors by 5-13-16.

2. Developmental Education – For developmental education courses to be eligible for federal financial aid, they must be at the 9th grade level or above, and be part of the developmental education sequence. Four courses were determined by the AZ Dept. of Education to be below 9th grade level and therefore ineligible for financial aid.
STATUS: COMPLETE. WRT 070, MAT 082, MAT 086, and REA 071 have been deactivated from financial aid eligibility, and a new developmental education sequence has been designed to comply with Department of Education regulations.

3. Course-to-Program Applicability – Students can only receive Title IV aid for courses in their declared program of study.
STATUS: COMPLETE, but labor intensive. Advisors are manually reviewing records to verify course-to-program applicability. The College is working on various I.T. solutions to automate this process.

4. Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) – The Financial Aid SAP policy must be “as strict as” the institutional SAP policy.
STATUS: COMPLETE. Standards were changed in Fall 2015 to meet the regulations. The Financial Aid SAP Appeals team has undergone training on the level of rigor expected in SAP Appeals review and will continue to do so to maintain compliance and consistency.

5. Administrative Capability — The Department of Education requires that conflicting information be resolved and a system of checks and balances be put in place in the administration of Title IV aid. An HLC Substantive Change application and subsequent approval is required if a college offers more than 50% of a program at a location that is geographically separate from a main campus. Likewise, the Department of Education requires this HLC approval prior to disbursing aid to students attending at these additional locations. PCC discovered a mismatch between the list of approved locations with the HLC and the list of approved locations with the Department of Education.
STATUS: IN PROGRESS. We filed substantive change applications with the HLC in February to seek approval for offering more than 50% of a program at three additional locations (Aviation Technology Center, Maintenance & Security, Public Safety Academy) , and are hoping for approval over the next few weeks.We notified the Dept. of Ed of the mismatch between HLC additional locations and those listed by the Dept. of Ed as approved. They are conducting an offsite program review of two of the locations (Aviation Technology Center and Maintenance & Security), and we should expect to hear on their process in the next few weeks. As we are awaiting approval from the HLC and Dept. of Ed., summer classes at these additional locations are being relocated to the campuses, when possible.

Because Aviation courses cannot be relocated without additional approval from the FAA, the PCC and the PCC Foundation will provide scholarships to summer session students who would have received federal financial aid (Title IV). We hope to have the appropriate approvals for the fall semester from both the HLC and the Dept. of Ed. During the May 5 training, administrators were asked to report any other additional locations where PCC courses are taught, so that we can ensure proper reporting and approval is sought with the HLC and Dept. of Education

Final thoughts
As you can see, ensuring compliance in today’s higher education world has never been more complicated or absolutely necessary. In order to become the premier institution I know Pima can be, we must be self-reflective and knowledgeable about the regulatory bodies that impact the College. We want to do more than what is minimally required—we want to exceed the standard, and ensure that we are catching these issues ourselves.

Compliance is about transparency, accountability, and making sure we are enabling our students to achieve their hopes and dreams. Thanks for your help with this incredibly important work.

Building connections

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More than 100 business and education leaders attended the Arizona Technology Council’s After 5 networking event, held at our Aviation Technology Center.

More than 100 business and education leaders attended the Arizona Technology Council’s After 5 networking event, held at our Aviation Technology Center.

At the Arizona Technology Council’s recent After 5 networking event, held at our Aviation Technology Center, more than 100 local business leaders met to strengthen connections to PCC in service to a common goal: building a more robust economy.

The Arizona Technology Council is a trade association promoting growth in aeronautics, energy, particularly solar, healthcare, and technology. My welcome message noted that PCC can supply qualified people to work in these sectors by aligning our programs with transfer pathways, industry needs and nationally recognized credentials.

Several of our key programs were well-represented at the event, including Aviation Technology, which in January was honored to host the first-ever visit to PCC by a Cabinet secretary, when Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez praised PCC for implementation of Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grants.

A TAACCCT grant supports the Get Into Energy program, a joint venture that includes PCC and Tucson Electric Power and which awards students an Electrical Utility Technology certificate. Students who complete the program are eligible to apply to internships at TEP and may pursue an associate in applied science degree.

Another TAACCCT grant will create a degree pathway in industrial technology with certificates in instrumentation, industrial maintenance, industrial mechanics and mechatronics, in addition to certificates in basic and advanced industrial welding.

We are working toward National Institute for Metalworking Skills accreditation and recently graduated nine students, our first high school cohort to complete the Machine Tool Technology certificate in collaboration with Southern Arizona Manufacturing Partnership. And we just dedicated an art/design space where students will learn to write software for 3D printers.

I want to thank Arizona Technology Council Southern Arizona Regional Vice President Alex Rodriguez, ATC president Steven G. Zylstra, Interim Vice Chancellor for Technology Cindy Dooling, and the always-indispensable team at the Aviation Technology Center for a great event.

Henry Ford said, “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”  Through our ever-stronger connection to employers, PCC can supply students with the education to successfully compete in the global workplace of the future.

Community colleges: propelling workers into STEM careers

Duval Ducey

Here’s a fact that bears repeating: One in five U.S. jobs requires knowledge of science, technology, engineering or mathematics – the STEM disciplines.

And here’s a fact that might not be so well-known: Community colleges award more than half of post-secondary STEM degrees and will play a major role in developing a career-ready workforce that can invigorate our nation’s economy.

The connection between education and the economy has informed recent visits to Pima Community College by Doug Ducey and Fred DuVal, the Republican and Democratic candidates for Arizona governor. Both men took time out of their busy schedules to learn about our Aviation Technology Center, which Inside Tucson Business has termed “one of the best-kept secrets” in Southern Arizona. Located at the western edge of Tucson International Airport, PCC’s aviation facility is the perfect place to see how we’re doing our part to train men and women for well-paying careers in one of the most vibrant sectors of Arizona’s economy.

Fred, a former member of the Arizona Board of Regents, outlined his plans for education at the Aviation Technology Center last month. Earlier this week, Doug, Arizona’s State Treasurer, toured the center and met with me and several other College administrators. Thanks to Advanced Program Manager Tom Hinman, Department Chair Eric Ross and others at the center, our aviation program is no longer secret from either of the men who hope to lead our state.

Of course, within the region’s aerospace industry, the Aviation Technology Center has a well-known stellar reputation. PCC is one of only a handful of the approximately 160 FAA-approved schools to have curriculum targeted at commercial jet transports and seems to be the only U.S. school teaching Advanced Structural Repair and Modification, a highly sought after and well-paying skill. Over the past year, more than a dozen firms with local operations have hired our students. Median salaries in the field range from $36,020 to $46,680, not including the overtime/shift differential pay that employees often accrue. It is not unusual for experienced, qualified technicians to earn close to $100,000 a year.

The Aviation Technology Center is one of the areas of the College benefiting from the state’s $600,000 allocation for STEM in 2014-15. We also are using the funding for microscopes and other science lab equipment, laptop and tablet computers for mathematics students, and anatomy and physiology models in our health-related professions courses. By improving the education of our students, PCC increases their employability, and we look forward to working with the state to develop resources in the future.

It’s no secret that Arizona’s rebound from the Great Recession has been slow. That’s especially true for Tucson, which recently was ranked 143rd out of 150 U.S. cities recovering from the economic downtown, slightly ahead of Detroit. Nearly 3,000 STEM positions were unfilled locally in the first quarter of 2013. In PCC’s Aviation Technology Program, the number of students awaiting admission exceeds capacity by 10 percent. Against this backdrop, it is important that all our constituents know what is at stake, and the vast potential PCC has as a launching pad for developing Southern Arizona’s 21st-century STEM economy.

Regardless of who is elected governor of Arizona, I am pleased that both of the major party candidates sought to learn about PCC’s aviation program and our critical role in workforce training. My hope is that the investment of time they made in PCC during the campaign will help shape their decisions once the work of governing begins early next year.

Lastly, let’s not forget that choosing Arizona’s next governor is up to us. I urge all PCC students, employees and community members to make their voices heard in the upcoming election. Doug and Fred made a point to learn about us; we should learn about them. Get to know the issues. Familiarize yourself with the candidates’ positions. Don’t miss this opportunity to make an informed choice on Nov. 4. The deadline to register to vote is Oct. 6 and early voting begins three days later, on Oct. 9. More information is available from the Office of the Secretary of State and the Pima County Recorder’s Office.

A flight plan for high-tech economic development

Training southern Arizona’s workforce for high-technology jobs that our region and state will require to compete economically is a priority for Pima Community College. Some 26 million U.S. jobs require high-level knowledge in a STEM field – science, technology, engineering or mathematics — and U.S. community colleges award more than one-half of all postsecondary STEM degrees.

Last week I had the honor of testifying before the Arizona Legislature’s Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee, chaired by Rep. Jeff Dial. [Video of my testimony is available here.] Arizona’s lawmakers have a duty to ensure that the state appropriates money in ways that offer the greatest return on investment. To make the case that allotting STEM funding to PCC will invigorate pathways to student success and economic development, I told the legislators about our Aviation Technology program. It is a model employer-educator partnership that pays tangible benefits to our students and the industry.

One of the trainings PCC first offered in 1969, our program is rigorous, and holds students to the industry’s highest standards. We offer an Associate of Applied Science in Aviation Technology degree and certificates for direct employment in Structural Repair, Avionics, and Airframe and Powerplant. I conveyed to the legislators that our program is designed to have the industry’s look, feel and function. Our students take 20 to 26 credit hours of coursework during a semester. They attend school eight hours a day, five days a week, with completion of programs taking between 19 and 27 months, under the direction of top-quality faculty and dedicated administrative support staff.

Our industry partners provide phenomenal support for our programs, including funding for scholarships. Plus, we are one of only two U.S. educational institutions receiving two aircraft donations from FedEx. Both are Boeing 727s, making us one of the few U.S. programs providing hands-on training on commercial and regional jets. We listen to our partners so that we can quickly and precisely align with industry needs, standards and trends. The program’s advisory committee includes leaders of more than one dozen companies.

With industry and educators working together, the outcomes for the students are excellent. We awarded 110 certificates and degrees in 2012, with 89 percent receiving grades of A, B or C. Moreover, in our March 2013 cohort of 25 graduates, 21 received job offers with an entry-level wage ranging between $16 and $18.75 an hour, with ample opportunities for advancement.

Steve Pagnucco, the general manager of Universal Avionics, also appeared before the committee last week, and acknowledged the role that PCC plays in supplying his firm with qualified workers. The aviation sector’s need for talent will continue to grow nationally and in the state. Pilot and Technician Outlook estimates 98,000 additional aviation technicians will be needed across North America over the next 20 years. In Arizona, 25 percent of the state’s 17,500 civil aviation workers will reach retirement age in the next two years.

In a December 2013 report, the Manufacturing Institute notes that “talent management shortfalls’’ are one of the biggest threats to the country’s continued leadership in the aircraft industry. PCC’s Aviation Technology program has proven it can meet the challenge by sending qualified employees into the industry. Our goal is to expand the program’s instructional capacity by an additional 25 students to meet entry-level employment needs of area businesses, and add equipment to keep our training on the leading edge of the industry. With the support of the state, we can do more to provide the high-skill jobs that will be the engine of economic vitality in our community.