Cemala Supports the Development of a Skilled Workforce to Support the Aviation Cluster

Given Cemala Board members' interests in aviation, development of an aviation cluster, the availability of more and better paying jobs and the development of a skilled workforce, the Foundation is investing over $1 million in three aviation workforce initiatives. This interest is sparked by several things.

  1. Greensboro is a leader in aviation services in the Southeast. From jet aircraft manufacturing to aviation maintenance to overnight air delivery, many companies specializing in aviation call Greensboro home. The aviation cluster is one of the fastest growing industries in the Triad. There are currently more than 20 aviation firms in the immediate vicinity of the Piedmont Triad International Airport that hire for many skills.
  2. Ceasar Cone II, founder of the Cemala Foundation, had a strong interest in the development of the Piedmont Triad International Airport. In 1941, the Greensboro-High Point Airport Authority was created by the North Carolina General Assembly to own, operate and manage the airport in Guilford County. On April 22, 1942 the Airport Authority held its inaugural meeting. Greensboro department store executive Joseph T. Martin was elected the Authority's first chairman. High Point resident R.T. Amos became Vice Chairman and Ceasar Cone of Greensboro began a 26-year career as Secretary.

The Problem. There has been indifference to technical and manufacturing jobs in the country, not just in Greensboro and Guilford County. Some people have outdated and negative images so that school children and teens are unlikely to gravitate to manufacturing careers on their own. Often interest comes late because students have been intimidated by math and science. On occasion, teachers do not know about opportunities for competitive wages and advancement.

Research shows that given the change in the economy and business environment, having a high-skilled, flexible workforce will be the most important concern of manufacturers over the next three to five years (Deloite & the Manufacturing Institute, 2011). Moreover, there is a shortage of workers in Greensboro that could get worse. The shortages are with skilled production (machinists, operators, craft workers, distributors, and technicians); engineering technologies (industrial engineers, manufacturing engineers, and planners); and scientists and product design engineers. (Deloite)

Cemala Foundation Aviation Cluster
The Andrews Aviation Academy Pilot Club on a field trip to Sugar Valley Airport Fly.

Some Solutions. Business consultants, educators, and aviation leaders have identified a variety of strategies to enhance K-12 basic and applied skills and to market the career potential in the aviation cluster. These include:

  1. Emphasize math and science
  2. Provide "soft" skills as well as hard disciplines
  3. Take the load off of community colleges
  4. Bring back apprenticeships
  5. Foster tighter connections between industry and school districts
  6. Make manufacturing cool again by starting early, adjusting family expectations, promoting the industry perspective, and exciting teachers
  7. Inform teachers about opportunities for competitive wages and advancement

Cemala's Investments. Cemala is investing in three initiatives which will enhance accessibility to high school and technical college courses and programs, emphasize math and science, take the load off community colleges, bring back apprenticeships, update and broadcast positive images so that school children and teens are more attracted to manufacturing careers, and promote the variety of jobs available in our region. They are:


Over three years, Cemala is investing $174,450 in summer internships and aviation clubs (Team America Rocketry Challenge [TARC] Club and Young Aviators Club) at The Andrews Aviation Academy, part of the Guilford County School System.

Guilford County Schools offers students in grades 9-12 from across the district the opportunity to learn all things aviation at The Academy. Instruction at The Andrews Aviation Academy is inquiry-driven, technology-enhanced, and problem-based. The Academy provides a jumpstart to a career in aviation preparing students for college and giving them a head start on the technical training needed for certification by the Federal Aviation Administration. It is one of three aviation academies in North Carolina. It offers five aviation career pathways: Engineering, Pilot, Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) Mechanic, Avionics Technician. and Airport Management. Not only will students realize a variety of benefits from The Academy, but also the community will realize a pipeline of skilled pilots, avionics technicians, airframe and powerplant mechanics, and engineers for the aviation community.

For more information about The Aviation Academy, visit the Guilford County Schools Magnet Program and follow The Academy on twitter at @twingateandrews.

The Guilford County Schools' Strategic Plan guides the work of each school. There are goals and strategies applying to the Aviation Academy. Cemala's investments support the goal to increase the number of industry certifications earned by Aviation Academy graduates each year. Specifically, the goals are: Year 1:20; Year 2:30; Year 3:45. In 2012, there were two industry and FAA certifications. Moreover, through this investment, Cemala supports School System strategies of expanding opportunities for students to earn college credits while still in high school; making learning engaging and relevant for more students, and creating partnerships that will open doors for students.

Cemala is investing in:

Internships. Local aerospace industries need program graduates to have experience in the aviation field. Students who graduate with a certificate or college degree have no to little experience. Internships bridge the gap between the academic environment and the future work environment and provide the experience employers need in the new employees. Students that participate in internships are generally more confident and more qualified when seeking future employment. Internships require partnerships with local businesses, cooperation with Guilford County Workforce Development, and funding for intern pay, tools, and uniforms. The partnerships and cooperation agreements have been established by Andrews High School and the Guilford County School District.

Aviation clubs. These clubs provide students experience and exposure to real life aeronautical and aviation investigation and problem solving techniques. Students learn how to apply what they learn in class to the real world. In addition, they promote team building and provide leadership opportunities.


Over four years, Cemala is investing $932,500 in the expansion of aviation programs at GTCC and in scholarships for students in the expanded programs. The goal is to add an additional 90 students to GTCC's aviation programs.

GTCC provides access to lifelong learning opportunities for personal growth, workforce productivity, and community service. It serves all segments of Guilford County's diverse population, delivering educational programs and services through partnerships with business, community groups, and other educational institutions. GTCC positions itself to have a broader, more profound and more productive impact on business, professional and personal lives in Guilford County than any other institution by raising the standard of living and helping people retool their lives. With this mission and position in mind, GTCC desires to expand it aviation program to meet the growing need of a trained workforce for the aviation industry in Guilford County.
The Cemala Foundation supports this initiative by investing in faculty salary, supplies, equipment, administrative support, and scholarships to support four strategies:

  1. Adding a fourth cohort of 25 students for the Associate Applied Science Degree for the FAA Airframe and Powerplant license
  2. Adding a program to help veterans with aviation mechanic/technician military experience to accelerate through a program to meet requirements to take the FAA Airframe and Powerplant license exam
  3. Adding a cohort of 20 students for the avionics program
  4. Increasing student scholarships

III. Support for the Triad Aviation Marketing Campaign

With a $35,000 investment, Cemala has joined area economic development organizations, community colleges, and local governments to help fund "Preparing the Triad for Takeoff," a collaborative effort to advance the growing aviation industry by connecting area residents with exciting education and employment opportunities in aviation and advanced manufacturing.

This initiative will:

  1. Advance awareness and showcase the opportunities that technical aviation jobs can provide
  2. Connect the potential pool of talent to the education and workforce development initiatives already underway in the region
  3. Promote the Piedmont Triad's aviation sector through a compelling branding campaign to reach many audiences through multiple mediums

Visit Aviation Triad, which is an entry point for advancing awareness and showcasing available aviation job opportunities, connecting to training and education opportunities, and informing career paths that the aviation industry offers.

There is a branding initiative, "Aviation Thrives Here, So Can You!"

Targets of the campaign are students in middle and high school; influencers including parents, teachers and counselors; job seekers such as the unemployed, those looking for a change, returning military; and decision makers.