Aviation

Interested in a factory job at Spirit? Here’s how you can get the training

Russell Armstrong, left, a Spirit AeroSystems retiree, has been brought back to train new hires, like Kevin Breen. Spirit is looking to hire 800 skilled aircraft workers in 2018, followed by another 200 in 2019.
Russell Armstrong, left, a Spirit AeroSystems retiree, has been brought back to train new hires, like Kevin Breen. Spirit is looking to hire 800 skilled aircraft workers in 2018, followed by another 200 in 2019. The Wichita Eagle

For the first time in a decade, a Wichita aircraft manufacturer is looking to add 1,000 well-paying jobs to its already hefty 11,000 employee workforce.

Spirit AeroSystems plans to fill the bulk of those jobs, about 800, this year. The remaining 200 openings are expected to be filled in 2019.

The jobs, on average, will pay $56,000 annually, according to the Greater Wichita Partnership. That figure doesn’t include overtime or bonuses.

While the supplier of aerostructures to Airbus and Boeing has said it is looking to fill a variety of jobs as part of its $1 billion, five-year expansion, most of the hiring will be for three factory jobs: sheet metal assembly, composite fabrication and CNC machine operation.

All three require technical training.

Spirit is encouraging experienced workers with that training to apply at spiritaero.com/careers. But it’s unlikely the company will find enough experienced workers to fill most of those new, skilled jobs, a company official said.

So how do you get one of them?

The training is available at Wichita Area Technical College. It’s also likely that other area colleges will add to their course offerings in these skilled positions, Suzanne Scott, Spirit’s director of HR global services, said in an interview last month with The Eagle.

The training is “a great way for people to get a one up, at least getting a foot in the door here,” Scott said, adding that the company provides further training for all new hires so they can work on Boeing aircraft and parts.

People who successfully complete WATC training for a technical certificate in sheet metal, composite fabrication or CNC operator will get a guaranteed interview with Spirit AeroSystems, said James Hall, WATC’s dean of aviation technologies.

“And they hire a good number of them (WATC students),” Hall said.

Each of the programs include such courses as math fundamentals — but no algebra, Hall said — and blueprint familiarization.

Tuition costs can be offset by the Wichita Promise scholarship, which is available to new adult students at WATC who have a high school diploma or GED equivalent and maintain a 2.5 grade point average, in addition to other requirements.

Because of the high demand for sheet metal training, a WATC spokesman said a new scholarship program has been created just for aviation sheet metal students, called the Aviation Sheetmetal Assembly Scholarship.

The Wichita Promise scholarship is open to application for students enrolled in the the three programs for the fall and spring semesters. The sheet metal scholarship is open for applications for students now.

Here are some details of each of the three training programs offered at WATC, including the cost.

▪ Aviation sheetmetal assembly: The coursework in this 18-credit-hour program has been accelerated and can be completed in eight to 10 weeks. WATC has expanded the number of classes it offers because of demand and Spirit’s need to fill sheet metal jobs. The classes can be taken during the weekday for eight hours a day, or on weeknights for six hours a night, James said. The cost to complete the program and receive a technical certificate is $3,083.

▪ Composite fabrication: This 21-credit-hour program fills the requirements for a composite technician job at Spirit, which involves constructing and manufacturing composite airplane parts. Unlike the sheet metal program, it takes up to 16 weeks, or about four months, to complete. WATC offers eight-hour day classes and five-hour evening classes Monday through Thursday. The cost to complete the program and receive a technical certificate is $4,677.

▪ CNC operator: This up-to-16-week program trains people to operate computer numeric controlled machines that cut, form and finish metal parts. It is offered for six hours a day or five hours at night, Monday through Friday. The cost of the 20-credit-hour program is $4,385.

James said the key to successfully completing any of the three programs is for the student to be motivated and dependable, things his instructors can’t teach. They’re qualities that also will ensure their success at Spirit, he added.

“You’ve got to show up on time and be ready to go to work,” he said. “It’s not that hard.”

Jerry Siebenmark: 316-268-6576, @jsiebenmark

Scholarships for Spirit jobs

Wichita Area Technical College has two scholarship programs available for students looking to offset their costs of earning a technical certificate in one of three areas needed at Spirit AeroSystems. Here are online addresses for more information on the scholarship programs.

▪ Wichita Promise Scholarship: watc.edu/WichitaPromise

▪ Aviation Sheetmetal Assembly Scholarship:watc.edu/sheetmetaltraining

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