Is aviation the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Paris? Perhaps not, but a group of students in Polk State’s aerospace program will have an incredible opportunity to earn course credit during a study abroad trip to the Paris Air Show next summer, thanks to a unique partnership between economic development, aviation, and aerospace education participants. In addition to the education focus of the trip, students will also assist local partners with economic and trade goals.

The Winter Haven Economic Development Council is one of several groups helping sponsor students in this program to enable them to participate in the trip.

The Paris Air Show, held every two years, is the biggest show dedicated to the aerospace industry worldwide. Professional opportunities for those attending include:

  • Participants visit the Paris Air Show for three trade days and attend industry-specific seminars to explore current and future aerospace trends.
  • Partners gain exposure to more than 2,000 exhibitors and 145,000 business attendees, providing networking opportunities to establish future business relationships.
  • Polk State aerospace program students have the opportunity to assist community members as show interns according to the needs of local business partners.

Although Polk State’s Study Abroad program has conducted several trips in the past, this is the first for the aerospace program. The trip will provide students with a unique way to understand the business of aviation.

polk-state-collegeNaomi Boyer, Polk State’s Associate Vice President for Strategic Initiatives, sees this program as another way to help students grow. “Students participating in this trip will be learning global competency skills that businesses are looking for,” Boyer said. “Our students will be seeing international perspectives while at the same time engaging with local businesses and groups to help meet their goals. We appreciate the collaboration with local economic development groups and businesses for the additional student funding support, and the opportunity for our students to work with them as international consultants on projects.”

Paul Mitchell, Regional Director for Enterprise Florida, has seen similar cooperative efforts between economic development, education and aviation, but the fact that students are included as part of this trip is unique.

Other groups in our area recognize the value of participating in global initiatives. Mike Willingham with the Sebring Airport Authority sees trips like this as part of a long-term strategy for economic development. Having a presence at the air show has resulted in not only visits by European businesses, but also a number of successes. Lake Wales Area Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Council President and CEO Kevin Kieft sees a similar benefit to going where aerospace industry businesses and manufacturers are in order to give them awareness of how much our area has to offer.

Polk State Aerospace Program Director Eric Crump is one of the program leaders for the trip. He emphasizes that it’s more impactful for students to get out of the classroom and go on a global trip, since aviation is a global industry. In addition, the partnerships with local business leaders will give the students a chance to gain valuable experience with projects that will benefit both the students and the partners.

By combining efforts, the students, business partners and local groups will be able to establish relationships that can provide an economic benefit to our area for many years to come. Polk State students are often encouraged to “soar” and the aerospace program continues to help them do just that.