Wichita, Kansas, named “The Air Capital of the World,” is experiencing rapid growth in its aviation and manufacturing operations. But finding qualified employees is difficult.
That’s why WSU Tech, the largest technical college in Kansas, created a scholarship program called “Wichita Promise Move.”
Launched in July 2018, the program is designed to attract people who live at least 75 miles outside of the Wichita area to move to the city, receive training, and employment opportunities at no cost to the student. It already has attracted 50 people from across the nation.
“Wichita Promise Move is designed to remove the barriers that keep individuals from getting trained,” said Dr. Sheree Utash, president of WSU Tech.” Whether those barriers are financial, location, time, or the fear of failing, this innovative workforce development strategy will help individuals get the training they need to get a career and ultimately a better life.”
WSU Tech set a goal to enroll 25 people who live outside Kansas and another 25 people who live in the state but outside a 75-mile radius of Wichita during the fall semester to start one of their short-term aviation training programs.
As of the beginning of October 2018, 50 students from 14 states across the U.S. have moved to Wichita. Of these, 75% of the students have come from outside of Kansas, relocating from as far as New York, California, and Massachusetts.
These students receive tuition and fees paid for training in either Aviation Sheetmetal Assembly or Process Mechanic Painter, relocation expenses paid, housing and cost-of-living stipends, a guaranteed job interview, and a potential sign-on bonus.
Most students in the program now already have jobs waiting at places like Textron Aviation and Spirit AeroSystems, school officials said.
Romar Tallie of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, was searching for a change when he saw a social media post about the Wichita Promise Move Program. The program looked so good, he even convinced his brother, Robert Tallie, and mother, Mardavi Howard, to make the move from Mississippi to Wichita.
“I woke up in the middle of the night, went on Instagram, and saw an ad from WSU Tech. I thought it was too good to be true. But then I read the website and finished my application that night,” he said. “After I finished my application, I woke up my brother and told him, ‘This is our chance.’”
Refusing to be left behind, their mother also applied for the program. The three are now living in Wichita, enrolled in the Process Mechanic Painter program at WSU Tech, and all have jobs waiting for them when they complete their training in a few weeks.
“The students who are in this program are some of the most courageous people with the most grit I have ever met,” said Utash. “It’s inspiring to see them leave their homes, some traveling across the country, to pursue this opportunity. We know there are big things in their future and are excited to have these great new citizens in our community” said Utash.