WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Textron is working with WSU Tech and the aerospace union to find the next generation of workers for tooling and production.

And those who get into the apprenticeship will get their associate’s degree paid, while they get paid to work and learn at the same time.

“Once the program is finished participants will receive a degree and transfer into a full-time position at Textron Aviation,” said Kansas Governor Laura Kelly on Tuesday.

IAMAW local 70 Business representative Cornell Beard calls the program a can’t miss.

“It gives us an arm, a hand to reach out to the younger folks,” said Beard. “Jump. Take a chance you know. Come into this apprenticeship program. Build something for the future.”

It’s a future that includes decent pay. Once through the two-year program, the graduates will make at least $40,000 a year. The higher-end pay, after getting experience in tooling and aircraft production, is more than 80,000 a year.

Local economy experts say with recent layoffs in Wichita in the aviation industry, there has been concern that a lot of skilled workers could decide to leave Wichita in search of the next job.

“So, we have that concern that skilled workers will leave the area, and Wichita has a large need for a very skilled workforce,” said Jeremy Hill, Director of the WSU Center for Economic Development and Business Research. “Other companies do not want to let any of that skilled labor go because they are critical for long-term growth.”

The program is for two years. It will consist of 62 credit hours and graduates will have an associate’s degree. The State of Kansas offered a $92,000 grant to help fund the program.

Textron officials say it will begin in late March and will help build a critical aircraft production talent pool.