San Jacinto College’s Edge Center will play a vital role in strengthening the Bay Area’s aerospace industry presence, according to local leaders in education.

The center, located at the Houston Spaceport, offers programs for aerospace structure technicians, aerospace electrical technicians, composite technicians, industrial automation technicians and aerospace quality technicians, as well as a drone program to prepare students for Federal Aviation Administration certifications. SJC is the official education training partner for the Houston Spaceport at Ellington Airport.

Programming does not follow a typical semester-based grading schedule, and some courses can be completed in as little as two months, SJC’s Workforce Development Dean Ken Tidwell told attendees at a meeting of Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership’s education and workforce development committee on Nov. 18. The education students receive is competency-based, he said; it targets industry-identified skills, including drone flight and drone building.

The center will hopefully offer two- or four-year programming in the future, and leaders are in the process of obtaining more industry-specific accreditations such as a CertTEC assessment center designation, Tidwell said.

Multiple funding assistance programs are available to offset or cover 100% of the tuition of several aerospace courses, per SJC’s website. Students began using the facility at 13150 Space Center Blvd. in 2020. SJC is holding Edge Center-specific information sessions on Dec. 2 and Jan. 13 at 3:30 p.m.

Clear Creek ISD counselors have been bringing high school seniors to the Edge Center to introduce them to its possibilities, CCISD Superintendent Eric Williams said at the BAHEP meeting.

“The key is counselor awareness,” he added.

In 18 months, there will be more than 1,800 jobs at the Houston Spaceport, Chancellor Brenda Hellyer said at SJC’s annual State of the College address on Nov. 12. The college is aggressively promoting and ensuring the spaceport’s success, aiming to position it competitively for aerospace industry leaders in terms of expansion opportunities, she added.

“We’re really strategizing about the future of the commercial aerospace industry here in Houston,” she said. “The real work is just beginning.”