The Rockford Area Aerospace Network (RAAN) in partnership with Northern Illinois University and other local agencies is highlighted in NIU Today as a top story in 2012. Rockford was one of 20 U.S. regions that won a federal Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge (JIAC) grant in 2012. The grant announcement and its potential impact has been identified as a top newsmaker for the year according to the university online publication.
The grant totaling $2.4 million was awarded to a collaborative effort made up of the Rockford Area Economic Development Council, Northern Illinois University, Rock Valley College, and EIGERlab to accelerate job creation and innovation for small and medium-sized aerospace companies in the region. The Boone and Winnebago Counties Workforce Investment Board, the Rockford Region Economic Development District, and the Rockford Metropolitan Agency for Planning are also partners in the grant.
This project has enabled the rapid acceleration of RAAN to develop the Rockford area workforce capacity that is necessary to meet the needs of the aerospace industry as it anticipates significant growth during the next two decades. Rockford’s cluster is one of the leading aerospace employment centers in the country. Winnebago County is home to five tier-one aerospace suppliers, and the larger bi-state region includes more than 200 aerospace companies.
Putting the grant to work for the region, a new community-based initiative was launched to significantly increase the region’s aerospace talent pipeline for high-paying jobs by establishing the Joint Institute of Engineering & Technology-Aerospace (JiET-A).
One of the aerospace industry’s greatest needs is finding qualified talent during a national shortage of engineers, scientists and technicians while it forecasts more than 30,000 new airplanes to be delivered in the next 20 years. JiET-A combines three components to significantly increase the pipeline: academics; real-world experience and support through internships, mentorships and scholarships; and employment by local aerospace companies.
“2012 has been an exciting year for RAAN,” says Eric Voyles, VP National Business Development, RAEDC. “We are thrilled to be featured on NIU Today’s Top 25 list and look forward to sharing the successes we achieve as a result of the JIAC grant.”