ACMA will also support the initiative through its CCT program. The association oversees nine certifications related to specific industry areas, such as advanced composites, compression molding, open molding, light resin transfer molding and wind blade repair. “Having a credible standard with consistent technical content on these various technologies and processes is something ACMA offers that is nowhere else to be found,” says Stephens.

Technical Colleges Jump on Board

Enterprise State Community College (ESCC) in southeastern Alabama is slated to be one of the first learning centers established through the MEEP grant. The college is an ideal fit, thanks in part to its close proximity to Fort Rucker, named a U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence in 2008, and the school’s aviation programs in aircraft maintenance and avionics technology.

ESCC is also one of a handful of schools that previously reached out to Hobbs at Davis Tech for advice on curriculum. “Our campus in Ozark, Alabama, has traditionally been focused on preparing aircraft mechanics. When we got some dollars to upgrade our composites lab through a regional workforce grant, I knew I didn’t want to end with just training mechanics,” says Danny Long, dean of instruction at Enterprise State Community College. “So I began looking for different credentials our students could possibly earn through instruction.”

Long found Davis Tech’s composite materials technology program through an online search and contacted Hobbs. The two hit it off right away. (It helps that Hobbs is an alumnus of Auburn University, just 100 miles north on U.S. Route 29.) Hobbs shared his program’s curriculum, some of which ESCC began using in its aviation program last summer. But the real game changer came when Hobbs, who will co-lead the national training program with IACMI’s Harmon Heath, asked Long if Enterprise State wanted to be the first community college partner on the MEEP grant.

“We are so excited for the opportunity,” says Long. “As far as I know, we’ll be the only community college in the state of Alabama – maybe even this entire part of the country – to offer such a program.” Pending final approval by governing bodies, ESCC will launch its composite manufacturing technology program in the fall, with enrolled students earning an associate’s degree in applied science. Davis Tech will help the school finalize curriculum that meets the area’s industry needs, set up the composites training lab and host a week-long train-the-trainer course for ESCC instructors. The instructors will also earn CCT – Instructor training through ACMA.