COLORADO SPRINGS — As the aerospace industry continues to grow, there’s a new degree program to help meet southern Colorado’s workforce needs.
The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs plans to offer students a bachelor of science degree in aerospace engineering next fall. The program aims to help prepare students for well-paying careers in the aerospace industry and to strengthen workforce development for the state.
Colorado’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade reports that Colorado’s aerospace industry is the second-largest aerospace economy in the United States, made up of more than 400 employers producing more than $6.8 billion in production and employing more than 27,000 workers in 2020. Jobs in the aerospace industry tend to be high-paying positions: The average salary for aerospace engineers in Colorado in 2020 was $123,580 per year, according to the Department of Labor.
UCCS instructors say there is a need for aerospace engineers in the region, especially as many of them are retiring. The industry is expected to need 1,000 more people just to meet labor needs.
“We need smart people who know what they’re doing. We need people who know how to do these very complex calculations and understand them from a theoretical perspective while also being able to apply them,” said Reina Young, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. student.
Young is a senior in college majoring in mechanical engineering with a minor in aerospace engineering.
“I know all too well the crazy hours you have to put in on homework and the mental health issues that come with it, but I know I’m not the first person to learn about it. It’s been happening for thousands of years, and with the right support, I can get by,” Young said. “The aerospace department here is fantastic at what they teach us, but it feels like a major on its own without getting a second bachelor’s degree.”
This would change with UCCS rolling out the Bachelor of Aerospace Engineering program.
“It will allow us to be a step ahead of anyone applying for local jobs. With the Space Force being here in addition to other military installations and DOD contracts, and allows us to have a length of ahead of people coming from out of state or out of town. It stays local,” Young said.
Freshman Katie Girardeau plans to change majors to join the program.
“Right now, I’m in mechanical engineering, but as of the next school year, I’m going to be in aerospace,” said Girardeau. “I was actually in the car when I got an email that they were going to be offering a specialization in aerospace. I was like oh my mom, I can do aerospace because it’s is what I always wanted to do.”
Girardeau wants to work with an experienced team to build planes rather than design them. She hopes this new degree will help her better understand aerospace technology.
“Aerospace can teach me a bit more about how spacecraft work, because mechanical engineering is a bigger field. Aerospace will teach me more about airplanes and how they fly,” Girardeau said.
The program is expected to admit between 35 and 50 incoming freshmen and some second-year transfers. The university hopes to recruit 120 students into the aerospace pipeline over four years.
“Continued interest in the Aerospace minor, along with student application trends both nationally and in Colorado, provide ample evidence of strong student demand for this new degree option at the University. UCCS,” said Peter Gorder, chair of the mechanical and aerospace engineering department. “And Southern Colorado’s robust aerospace industrial community has been open about its desire to further develop the local workforce to meet its current and future hiring needs.”
“We need aerospace engineers in Colorado Springs and southern Colorado in general. We have an aerospace engineering program north of here, but there’s really nothing here to meet the demand needs. local in southern Colorado,” said Lynnane George, senior mechanical and aerospace engineering instructor at UCCS.
UCCS will be the second aerospace engineering program in the state, the other University of Colorado at Boulder. The two are part of the US Space Force University Partnership Program agreement, signed in August 2021 to develop talent pipelines and research partnerships to support the new branch of the military.
“To train engineers who will be needed for their missions. We also have a lot of contractors in the region who are part of the aerospace community and who need to give jobs to our students,” George said. “I think a lot more of our students and graduates will stay here in the community. It will also bring more business into the community, which will be good for the economy.”
The new bachelor’s degree complements a transformational $3.5 million gift from the Anschutz Foundation, which is supporting new construction and a complete renovation of the Engineering and Applied Science building. The new Anschutz Engineering Center – a 27,000 square foot building currently under design and slated to open in fall 2023 – will support new teaching lab space and new research labs , while helping to fuel the college’s growth of 60% by 2030 to meet the workforce needs in the region.