Wichita State University Adds Internships to its Innovation Campus

Textron Aviation, Spirit AeroSystems are among the participating companies.

Wichita State University Innovation Center
The Innovation Center under development will host multiple resources for students and the aviation industry.Wichita State University

With the National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) and its location in Wichita—known as the Air Capital—Wichita State University has built a legacy as a leading campus for aerospace-related studies. Now, the university plans more growth with the development of its Innovation Campus to act as an incubator for engineering research and career preparation. Industry partnerships are key to this growth.

John Tomblin, Vice President, Research and Technology Transfer at Wichita State, summed it up: "It's all focused on workforce. We need to grow a different kind of graduate than we have in the past." Typically, companies spend about 24 months bringing a newly hired engineering graduate up to a point where that person does productive work for the business--an investment that companies have been willing to make, but a new approach is possible.

As students are accepted into programs at the Innovation Center, they will combine class work with actual, paid work for a partnering company. The students will then graduate, potentially with a job offer--and at a minimum, real work experience to put on their resumes.

To this end, Wichita State announced last month that it has signed an agreement with local aircraft manufacturer Textron Aviation to provide internships at its facility. Roughly 40 "Textron Aviation employees will share the 5,000 square-foot space with Wichita State students to advance product innovation and help students better understand career opportunities within general aviation," according to a university press release. Textron Aviation has a long history in the Wichita area as the evolution of the Cessna Aircraft Company after Textron's acquisition of Beech Aircraft Corporation assets in 2014. The company has been a longstanding partner in the NIAR as well, making the ongoing professional development agreement a natural extension of the relationship.

“Our business is built on continuous product development and requires a diverse, professional workforce,” said Maggie Topping, Textron Aviation senior vice president of Human Resources and Communications. “As the competition for employees tightens, Textron Aviation is committed to leading the way in building creative education and community collaborations through efforts such as the applied learning model at WSU.”

Textron Aviation joins Spirit AeroSystems at the Innovation Center. Spirit made an agreement in 2018 to work with Wichita State on applied learning technologies, joint strategic research projects, and improved workforce training services.