(WGHP) — What is it that you need?

It’s a simple question. But it’s one many believe was critical in Boom Supersonic’s decision to build a manufacturing operation in the Piedmont Triad and create more than 1,700 new jobs during the next 8 years.

“Basically, what I told them was very simple: ‘what is it that you need?’ They’re going to need about 250 to 400 people after they get their facility open to start setting up their production system and their tooling system to run the production line,” Nick Yale told me during a recent interview.

Yale is director of aviation programs at Guilford Technical Community College.

He was able to convince Boom executives the college could help meet that need. And Yale is by no means finished when it comes to reaching out to potential major aviation employers.

Prior to arriving at GTCC in 2015, he had spent a quarter century in the aviation industry as a manager, teacher, technician and analyst working at companies like Delta Airlines, Boeing and FedEx.

“I just didn’t want to find a job in aviation or higher education. I wanted to find one that was integrated already with the community, with the economic development system in the area,” he said.

“I could see based on the efforts the airport (Piedmont-Triad International) had taken over the last 5 to 10 years, the state had taken and the local boards and community had taken, this was going to be a growing entity.”

But he also noticed a couple of challenges with GTCC’s aviation program at the time: FAA compliance and the fact it was undersupplying the need.

Yale helped the program meet the first challenge. Meeting the second one is still a work in progress.

“The community college’s job is to serve industry,” he told me. “Basically fill the jobs that local industry has for their region.”

Prior to COVID, GTCC’s aviation program was only able to provide local companies with three-quarters of the trained and certified personnel they needed.

Today, the program’s still in the “ramp up” process after a three-month pandemic shutdown. Yale says it’s meeting about 50% of the need.

There are about 400 students enrolled in the college’s multi-faceted aviation program: maintenance, flight/management, avionics/electronics, aircraft structures and quick careers (curriculums designed to meet a company’s specific need and enable it to hire qualified people quickly.)

“Most of them (the students) are hired before they even step out of the classroom,” he said. “So they’re recruited by companies that are coming in and asking for time in front of the students. And we obviously allow that.”

But GTCC’s aviation program has quickly outgrown its facilities.

It plans to keep the T.H. Davis Aviation Center (an impressive hangar/classroom facility off West Market Street that has access to the Piedmont Triad International Airport’s runways.) In this place are multiple aircraft on which students can work and learn.

But two other buildings (also near the airport) contain everything from more aircraft to simulators to classrooms that are about to be replaced.

Plans call for a new $37.4 million, 100,000 square foot facility which will include offices, classrooms, labs and space for students to work on aircraft and their components.

“So we don’t have the capacity of the facility and of humans at this point for instructors to meet the need coming in the future,” Yale said. “So we have to expand and that’s what the new facility is all about.”

It will be build next to GTCC Cameron Campus off Highway 68, just a few miles from the airport. The college hopes to have it open within the next five years.

“There’s going to be a lot of employment opportunities in aviation in the next four or five years,” Yale said.

It sounds exactly like the words of an expert at meeting need.

For more information about GTCC’s aviation program, click here.