TNCC – NASA Co-op Program Creates Opportunities for Experienced Technicians


Published: April 3, 2007

Thomas Nelson Community College wants to position eligible people in its service area to play an important role in developing technology for space exploration, aeronautics research, and science through NASA. A new SpaceTEC cooperative education program developed by the College and NASA Langley Research Center seeks experienced technicians who are interested in gaining federal work experience and are committed to earning an Associates Degree in Mechanical Engineering Technology at the same time.

Patricia Taylor, Dean of Mathematics, Engineering and Technologies at Thomas Nelson, said two openings are still available and recruiting is ongoing. Established to serve up to six students, the co-op aims to address a “significant” shortage of qualified machinists in the space and aeronautics industry. Those accepted in the co-op can further their education with paid tuition and books at Thomas Nelson while receiving salaried work experience at NASA, a world leader in space and aeronautics.

“Students enrolled in the program will complete a minimum of six credits of course work at Thomas Nelson each semester and work 40 hours a week at NASA Langley in the fabrication department. The expectation is that students will earn their associate degrees within three years,” she explained.

“Although NASA Langley does not guarantee employment after the program, participants in the program can be on task with the Center for three years, minimum. If students complete their A.A.S. degree earlier than three years, they could be hired by NASA or industry, or continue their education pursuing a bachelors degree in engineering or technology at a four-year college or university.

Those interested in enrolling in the SpaceTEC co-op can submit resumes to: Thomas Nelson Community College/Cooperative Education Programs/600 Butler Farm Road, Hampton, VA 23666. Applicants must have three years experience in conventional machining including but not limited to conventional milling, lathe operations, use of precision measurement tools and be capable of interpreting and working from detailed engineering drawings with pertinent specifications and defined tolerances. Additionally, U.S. citizenship and background checks will be required.

Taylor stressed that this is a one-time opportunity. “Once the positions are filled, we do not expect any further requests for machinist co-ops at NASA Langley; however, other departments at the Center have expressed interest in developing similar co-op programs,” she noted.

Armed with three years of work experience from NASA and degrees in the field, students who complete the co-op may have an advantage when it comes to future long term employment within the aerospace industry. Although NASA is not guaranteeing employment to co-op students beyond their three years in the program, the aerospace employer views the degree as an essential element for job seekers. “NASA is focused on our A.A.S. degree that transfers to ODU because a bachelor’s degree is an expectation that they will not overlook even for the most experienced machinists.”

Thomas Nelson had a co-op program with NASA Langley from 1971 through the mid 1990 and as a result, most of its current technicians are Thomas Nelson graduates, according to the dean. Development of this co-op dates back to 2003 when NASA Langley officials approached the College upon recognizing that the Center has an aging workforce and no viable pipeline for training new technicians.

“Our progress in developing new curricula for SpaceTEC has kept NASA Langley interested in Thomas Nelson’s programs. NASA Langley continues to build on its traditions in air- and space- flight currently helping develop the technology needed to return to the moon, and move on to explore Mars and beyond. Langley will be working on a launch-abort system and crew capsule among other exciting projects that will be a part of NASA’s Vision for Space Exploration,” Taylor explained.

“Since they recently had a mandatory workforce drawdown they are unable to hire new technicians to cover the number of hours required to complete the new projects; they contacted Thomas Nelson for assistance through the use of a new co-op program.”

For more details about this exciting cooperative educational opportunity, please call 865-5882, e-mailcareercenter@tncc.eduThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it or visit the Thomas Nelson web site at www.tncc.edu.

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