The Kansas Engineering Excellence Project (KEEP) concluded last month, ending a five-year term and closing the program with awards of more than $5 million in the form of scholarships internships to students for engineering education. The program was administered through WSU Ventures at Wichita State University.
The program was initiated by the U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration in order to support advanced manufacturing by providing academic resources and funding to increase graduates in the engineering fields. KEEP was aimed at providing post-secondary education opportunities to laid-off workers and those in underserved populations. The program provided assistance for tuition, textbooks and other fees.
The goals of the KEEP initiative included reducing the number of H-1B visas for engineers guaranteeing greater job permanence in the engineering field in the Wichita area.
“The KEEP funding enabled more than 100 students to complete engineering technology certificates and degrees and gain employment in the technical workforce within a variety of high-growth industries,” said Debra Franklin, director of strategic initiatives for WSU.
The program surpassed its goals by providing assistance to more than 143 participants pursuing undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees. The original goal was 100. The program concluded with 105 participants completing training and an additional 28 continuing education at WSU or another university.
Mechanical, aerospace, electrical and industrial engineering were the predominant disciplines in which candidates enrolled. In all, KEEP grant recipients obtained 47 certificates, 59 bachelor’s degrees, 22 master’s degrees and six doctoral degrees.
“The KEEP initiative has given us a jumpstart in doctoral enrollment by providing a nice stipend for Ph.D. students,” said Janet Twomey, associate dean for graduate education in the College of Engineering. “It has given opportunities to some of our students that may have been laid off.”
KEEP candidates were given internship opportunities throughout their tenure with the program. The KEEP program helped 75 students earn internships with a number of local employers, including Textron Aviation, Mid-Continent Instruments and Avionics, Bombardier Learjet, Atlas Aerospace and WSU’s College of Engineering and National Institute for Aviation Research. Many of these employers went on to permanently hire KEEP interns.