Northwest Florida State College, Crestview Technology Air Park and the Hsu Educational Foundation will team up to create new aerospace program with lofty goals.

NICEVILLE – The agreement, on the surface, might seem just like another piece of academia.


But look a little closer. Listen to those who worked to make Wednesday’s announcement of a partnership between Northwest Florida State College, the Hsu Educational Foundation and Crestview Technology Air Park a reality.


The fruits of their labor — NWFSC’s new Airframe & Powerplant program — could be something that provides dividends for years and years to come.


“What we’re talking about is aviation technicians who have the ability to work in these high-demand, high-wage careers,” said NWFSC President Devin Stephenson. “This is careers in avionics … where you learn at state-of-the-art facilities and hopefully create that pipeline directly to the aviation industry.”


While the title of the program — Airframe & Powerplant — might cause some confusion, what it boils down to is helping create a part of the workforce that specializes in working on engines for everything from wide-body jets to hot-air balloons.


A recent study by Boeing estimated that the A&P industry alone will create 700,000 new jobs over the next two decades.


The NWFSC Board of Trustees held a special meeting Wednesday night to unanimously approve a long-term lease with the Crestview Technology Air Park at Bob Sikes Airport and a memorandum of agreement with the Hsu Educational Foundation to house the program in an estimated 24,000-to-28,000 square-foot facility that will be built over the next year.


“We are at the right time and the right place (for the program),” Dr. Paul Hsu said in a statement released by NWFSC. “I am excited and look forward to working with the college to make Okaloosa County a better place for growing aerospace and other high-tech industries.”


There was some discussion of creating the program before Stephenson’s arrival at NWFSC in January 2017, but things picked up steam in the spring of 2017 with the college’s emphasis on creating relevant pathways to careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Education and Math) for its students.


“This program directly impacts the aerospace industry,” Stephenson said. “We were able to shape it and bring it to reality because we really thought this is the way we need to go … it really represents a beautiful public-private partnership that involves a lot of different entities.”


Stephenson also said he anticipates a partnership with local school districts that could help promote the A&P program and recruit local students who want to get into this particular field.


“We need to create a pipeline of students,” Stephenson said. “These are high-demand jobs that require post-second credentials, and even though sometimes those credentials need to be stacked on top of each other, they require certification of some kind that we will offer, and it ends up being more than a degree. It’s a future.”