EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Atlantic City International Airport may soon be home to a new college in South Jersey.
Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology, located in New York, has been working with Atlantic County, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and others to bring an 18-month certification program in aircraft maintenance to the airport.
The goal is to train and certify people in the area, creating aircraft maintenance and repair jobs locally, according to Greg Derham, of the Garden State Education Group, a nonprofit that works with school districts and colleges to create middle-class jobs.
The long-term objective is to train a workforce and then have large airlines bring in planes from Philadelphia or New York to Atlantic City International for repairs.
“You have an industry that needs support, and you have a county that needs support,” Derham said.
But there are hurdles to getting the program off the ground.
A college from another state cannot just start offering classes in New Jersey. Derham said he and county officials have been working with the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development and state lawmakers to make the idea work.
The training program, currently offered at the New York college, prepares students to work on aircraft of any type, according to Fred Parham, executive director of the Aviation Training Institute at Vaughn.
The idea of using the airport came in part from the Angelou Report provided to Atlantic County last year. The report stated the airport was one of the most underused assets the county has.
Howard Kyle, chief of staff for Atlantic County, said the airport is an important asset as the county continues to focus on the aviation industry to help expand its economy. The county is also looking forward to the development of the Stockton Aviation Research & Technology Park, which will see ground work for the first building begin at the end of October.
“It’s not just building a park or fixing an airport; it’s building an industry,” Kyle said.
Graduates of the Aviation Training Institute have found jobs at FedEx, American Airlines, Long Island Railroad and other companies.
A spokesperson for the Department of Labor declined to comment on the program.
Another question is whether students in the program will receive college credits at Vaughn on top of the certificate. Derham said a high school diploma or General Education Development (GED) certification is required to apply, but many other details are still preliminary.
Derham said the goal is to have the program up and running at the airport by June.
“We’ve looked at a lot of different locations, but the airport is best,” he said, adding that the exact location within the airport has not been determined. “Doing it at the airport makes a lot of sense; it’s more exciting and more relevant.”
Derham said the hope is to have an initial class of 50 students and then graduate about 500 students a year once the program is in full swing.