Thanks to a strong relationship between Beechcraft and Wichita State University's National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR), dozens of WSU students are getting hands-on experience creating 3-D designs for Beechcraft airplanes.
The students are working at Beechcraft as employees of NIAR's CAD/CAM Lab. They're using CATIA 3D CAD design software and Mentor Graphics software to implement change requests for all production lines and recreate outdated two-dimensional drafting plans.
"They physically become part of the Beechcraft team," said Shawn Ehrstein, NIAR's CAD/CAM Lab director.
Much of the design work the students are completing was previously contracted to other companies. In 2010, bringing those jobs back to Wichita became a goal for Ehrstein and Scott Yeakley, Beechcraft's director of engineering operations.
"It's a winning situation for everyone," said Ehrstein. "The university provides hands-on learning opportunities, students get industry experience using industry tools while earning a paycheck, and Beechcraft gains a pipeline for new hires."
'A win-win scenario'
Most of the students are participating in the university's Cooperative Education and Work-Based Learning program to satisfy curriculum in the engineering program.
Before students are hired, they must commit to working for the lab for the remainder of the semester. And, in turn, Beechcraft guarantees the students a job for as long. This has been a main contributor to the program's success.
"The NIAR/Beechcraft relationship is a win-win scenario in every sense of the meaning. We are proud to be a part of this successful business relationship," said Yeakley.
The partnership has already provided opportunities for nearly 40 students, and an additional 30 students will soon be hired for a new program this summer. Individuals to fill these positions have already been selected. Ehrstein recruits students by word of mouth and by posting flyers in and around Wallace Hall.
Students who have worked for NIAR's CAD/CAM Lab are in high demand in the aircraft industry. Since the program began in 2010, all of the lab's long-term student employees have secured jobs in the industry. Even Dassault Systems, the manufacturer of CATIA design software, has called Ehrstein looking for recruits.
"We hope we can continue to build this relationship and use it as a model for working with additional organizations," said Ehrstein.