The Warren County Community College drone program is breaking new ground in many ways. When it comes to employer demand for graduates, says WCCC President Will Austin, “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Austin is not only the President of the College, he’s also the UAS Program Director, having gone back to school himself to get a Master’s Degree from Embry Riddle in order to run the program. New Jersey-based WCCC has invested heavily in the segment: students have access to a state-of-the-art UAS laboratory and outdoor multi-function “Flight Training Center” with an accident reconstruction training site, professional GCPs for engineering applications, take-off and landing pads for multi-rotor aircraft, launch & recovery areas for fixed-wing aircraft, NIST/AUVSI TOP pilot training and more. The students who graduate have training in a wide variety of skills – useful across a wide variety of industries.
“We didn’t do other aviation programs,” says Austin. “Sometimes, people think this is going to be an easy degree: but you have to learn aviation, meteorology, the electro magnetic spectrum, radio frequencies, GIS, mapping – and then you get into the safety aspects of flying. This is a hard degree – just finding the professors for these topics is very difficult.”
The degree takes about 10,000 hours to complete: the College provides all of the drones and the systems. “Our students can really get their hands on things that many other people only see in magazines,” Austin says. “And the students we are producing are some of our best students, because they make it through,” Austin says. “It’s a lot of work.”
The Warren County Community College drone program offers the training that employers want: and Austin reports that graduates are choosing from multiple offers, in industries that range from agriculture to Homeland Security.
“I knew there was need, but I didn’t know how much need, until we started graduating people from the program,” he says. “This is nothing like I’ve ever experienced in any other degree program before – we have people actually show up at the building looking for people. We’re taking emails, phone calls – it’s crazy. Employers really need these people.”
This year, WCCC has set up a reverse job fair to give employees the opportunity to present to the students in an effort to attract them. Graduates from the program aren’t just well-trained, they offer a level of diversity that more traditional institutions can’t. “Our program is between 20 and 25 percent female, and if you come into our drone center, you find that it’s about 50% full-time students and 50% already in the workforce.” WCCC prides itself on being affordable and accessible: making it a viable option for students who can’t leave the workforce full time to develop a new career.
The Warren County Community College drone program is a success story for the college, the graduates, and employers in the area. As the drone sector begins to scale and commercial applications continue to get more sophisticated, a large number of industries need trained UAS professionals. WCCC is stepping in to bridge the skills gap between employers and the available workforce: making drone industry jobs accessible to a wide variety of students and developing a well-trained workforce to serve a wide variety of businesses.
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Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has penned over 3,000 articles focused on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For drone industry consulting or writing, Email Miriam.
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