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Students prepare for potential aerospace engineering job opportunities

Oklahoma Christian University engineering students may have new job opportunities at aerospace companies in Oklahoma City, OK, following their graduation from the university.

Kratos Defense and Security Solutions, a government contractor and product supplier for national security-related agencies—such as the CIA and Homeland Security—announced Jan. 26 it would open a facility in Oklahoma City, OK. The statement said the company plans to eventually establish a 75,000-square-foot facility and employ over 350 individuals.

NewsOK reported the second largest industry in Oklahoma is aviation and aerospace, which creates an opportunity for “cutting-edge” innovation in the field. The article said aerospace companies are responsible for producing $4.9 billion in goods and services in the metro area. Tinker Air Force Base is a key attraction for most of the aerospace companies, according to the article.

Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Oklahoma Christian Bradley Buxton said he served as an Air Force officer and engineer for 25 years, where he helped develop new aircrafts and technology. Buxton said he talks to many students who are interested in pursuing a career in aerospace engineering and encourages them to pursue the opportunities in the area.

“It is a great time to be getting an engineering degree in this area,” Buxton said. “There’s just been a lot of growth. Aerospace is really foundational to that growth, and Tinker Air Force Base of course is a big player in that. There’s been great decisions from the Oklahoma City point of view being made about relocating work here.”

To prepare students for progressive aerospace engineering career opportunities, Buxton said Oklahoma Christian offers beneficial course options. He said one class is an SAE International aero project, which allows students to design and fly an aircraft.

“We’ve been doing the aero-design competition, so we’re trying to get the students to take that elective,” Buxton said. “That helps them learn the language, so they can go do the aero-design competition and actually speak airplane.”

Junior Ben Bray said he took the aero-design course offered last fall, and it was both challenging and rewarding. He said he feels opportunities at Oklahoma Christian are adequately preparing him to potentially apply for a job in the aerospace field post-graduation.

“Now that I’m going to be a senior next year, we are put on systems projects and I was placed on the SAE aero project where you and your team design an R/C plane and compete in competition,” Bray said.

Senior Evan Lockhart said he is interested in pursuing a job in aerospace as well, following years of interest in aviation. He said he thinks the growing opportunities for engineers in Oklahoma will help the economy, as well as continue to develop the industry.

“I know the field is going to continue into drones—unmanned drones,” Lockhart said. “R/C pilots, that will increase, that’ll become more of a profession. We hire a professional pilot for our project and he actually works for OSU, which is contracted by the government. Five years ago, 10 years ago, that wasn’t a job, but now that’ll continue to grow.”

Bray said he thinks it would be enjoyable and rewarding to work in the aerospace industry. He said the right job offer after graduation could persuade him to stay in the Oklahoma City, OK area to work.

“I think the fact that aerospace companies are moving to Oklahoma is a major advantage, because you don’t have to move out of state to get a job if that’s what you’re interested in,” Bray said. “I think it also shows that the aerospace industry is growing rather than getting smaller like some industries, which means more jobs and abilities to start a career.”

According to Buxton, students who graduate from Oklahoma Christian with an engineering degree, and begin applying for jobs, are equipped with the necessary skill-set as well as the ability to communicate their thoughts effectively. He said the growing aerospace opportunities in Oklahoma City, OK, coupled with the degree program, will help students be successful in their jobs.

“I’m excited about the future of engineering at OC,” Buxton said. “OC has got a great engineering program and the three-course design sequence is sort of our hallmark. We have toastmasters, which goes with that. We work really hard on making our students well-rounded so they’ll succeed, and that means they can communicate. We’ve got a boom going, and it’s a great time to take your degree and look at that industry.”

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