First Concordian graduates from the NSERC Chair in Aerospace Design Engineering apprentice program
At spring convocation on June 12, Reuben Warnongbri will receive his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.
But that’s not all.
He will also walk across the stage as the first ever NSERC Chair in Aerospace Design Engineering (NCADE) apprentice to graduate from the Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science.
“Being selected for this program has been the best career-shaping experience of my life," says Warnongbri, who completed a degree-long apprenticeship with Pratt & Whitney as part of the program.
"It’s a great feeling to graduate with such a unique skill set.”
European-style apprenticeships at Concordia
Unique within Canada, the NCADE apprenticeship is modelled after European industry training programs. It was born in May 2016, when Catharine Marsden joined Concordia. She partnered with five industry giants — Bombardier, Pratt & Whitney Canada, Bell Helicopter Textron, Siemens, Marinvent and Altair — to help train the next generation of aerospace engineers.
“The NCADE program at Concordia is a unique project that brings industry, government and academic institutions together to offer students a range of experiential learning opportunities in aerospace engineering education and practice,” says Marsden, associate professor of mechanical, industrial and aerospace engineering and chair of the program.
The intensive placement allows engineering students, from the beginning of their first year, to apprentice with one of the five companies throughout the entire span of their degree — over as many as four summers.
They gain product-focused experience in areas such as manufacturing, procurement, finance, marketing as well as in the engineering design office. Before their placement begins, each NCADE apprentice also receives a hands-on crash course at the École nationale d'aérotechnique, a world-renowned aerospace learning facility.
Warnongbri says his NCADE experience has been invaluable.
“Being exposed to industry in such a structured fashion has allowed me to contextualize my academic studies and better understand why certain theoretical principles are applied in certain ways.”
Bridging classroom and industry
Pratt & Whitney offered Warnongbri a comprehensive schedule, one that involved meeting with assemblers and manufacturers on the shop floor, interacting with logistics, repair and overhaul departments, before moving into core engineering practices.
“It is very rare for students to acquire such big-picture exposure to a large company. It was essential to shaping my knowledge of the industry as well as contextualizing the complex engineering processes involved in following a product from design to delivery,” he says.
“It’s led to a more complete understanding of what I was studying, and it allowed me to move ahead of my peers. I was often being exposed to engineering concepts in advance through my work.”
‘Innovative teaching and learning strategies’
Marsden says the idea behind the program is to incorporate real-world applications within the undergraduate degree in a balanced, holistic manner, where students learn about product life cycles as well as company culture.
As apprentices explore different areas of the company, they expand their professional network far beyond the boundaries of a single-term internship, and identify personal areas of interest within a workplace setting.
“Reuben is a wonderful example of what the NCADE program can help our students achieve. His success is a tribute to what innovative teaching and learning strategies can offer when academia and industry come together for the benefit of the aerospace engineering community.”
Graduating with a job in hand
Thanks to his time in the NCADE program, Warnongbri will graduate with not only a degree but a job.
“I am thrilled to be starting my career at Pratt & Whitney in June. It is a company that I knew I wanted to be involved with since day one. I'm really looking forward to what the future holds,” he says, adding he also plans to pursue an MBA in the coming years.
“These placements are so important, especially in a field such as engineering, where it is almost expected that you graduate with internship experience and an ability to use tools, whether physical or digital. This apprenticeship has allowed me to leave university equipped with the most up-to-date and in-demand skills in the industry.”