Arkansas Airplane Manufacturer Offers Job Interviews for U of A Course Completion

Game Composites in Bentonville makes the GB1 Gamebird aerobatic airplane.
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Game Composites in Bentonville makes the GB1 Gamebird aerobatic airplane.

A general aviation airplane manufacturer in Bentonville is offering guaranteed job interviews to people who complete a course in aerospace composite manufacturing offered by the Professional and Workforce Development Division of the U of A Global Campus.

The course was developed with input from industry experts as part of the Reimagine Arkansas Workforce Project, a program that offers online job training funded by a federal grant to the U of A and partners. Game Composites will guarantee a job interview to people who successfully complete the course and meet these requirements: eligible to work in the United States unsponsored, seeking full-time employment, at least 17 years old, able to commute each day to the factory in Bentonville or be willing to relocate there.

Registration for the course may be done online, and applications for funding from Reimagine can also be submitted online. The Global Campus received a federal grant in 2020 to fund online job training for Arkansans who qualify through the Reimagine Arkansas Workforce Project. People who live in neighboring states and work in Arkansas can also apply for the free online training. Funds from Reimagine are limited to one course offered through Professional and Workforce Training. Applicants must be 18 or older, if male have registered for Selective Service, be eligible to work in the U.S. and have been economically impacted by COVID-19.

Tara Dryer, senior managing director of Professional and Workforce Development, said the involvement of Game Composites in the aerospace composite manufacturing course is an example of how workforce training works best.

"This course was designed using input from industries so that we could provide the best training possible that benefits both the individual and the industry," Dryer said. "The Reimagine federal grant requires us to create new courses that serve the local economy. By consulting with business and industry officials who tell us what skills they need their employees to have, we can offer Reimagine participants the opportunity for a better life for themselves and their families. Our industry partners make this a win-win situation."

This course is an introduction to aerospace structures and materials, ranging from manufacturing and processing techniques to design principles and structural performance, including durability and safety. Key lessons review components of advanced composites, laminated structures, fabrication, inspection and quality control, as well as safety on material handling and environmental requirements. Participants will also learn about several fundamental processes including layup, curing, trimming and finishing.

Josh Richards, chief operating officer of Game Composites, said the company anticipates continued strong growth since it was founded in 2013 by Steuart Walton and Philipp Steinbach. It has developed, tested and received FAA certification for the GB1 Gamebird aerobatic airplane and is working on the design for its next aircraft. The work done at the facility includes composite manufacturing; painting; final assembly; design, analysis and certification; and prototype and production tooling.

The design of the two-seat Gamebird features a complete set of controls in both cockpits and combines greater range, speed, comfort, safety and storage space than its competition. It's designed both for the aerobatic arena and weekend cross-country trips.

Richards said prototype and certification work required in the design and testing phase of the company's next aircraft will require the company to add up to 100 new employees over the next two years, of which many will be manufacturing and production technicians. Once positions are filled, applications will be kept on file, he said, with employee headcount expected to grow as high as 300 in three to five years.

"We anticipate significant growth over the next five years and will need a large number of skilled workers to help us achieve our goals," Richards said. "The thing I love the most is watching rolls of raw fabric turn into a flying airplane in 10 short weeks. Our customers come to the factory to take delivery, and it's awesome to be able to give them something they've dreamed about. In aviation manufacturing, the stakes are high, so everyone's job here really matters."

Understanding the fundamentals of aircraft design, construction and maintenance is helpful, but not necessary, to make an early impact with the company, he said.

"Any qualifications or skills related to aviation, aerospace manufacturing, quality assurance or lean manufacturing will be well-served here," Richards said. "We also look for people with great communication skills, high emotional intelligence and who are great problem-solvers. We want people to know this is a place where you can make a career, and we strive to promote from within."

In addition to a competitive salary for the industry and region and what Richards called world-class benefits, the company will offer numerous leadership and growth opportunities for its employees because of anticipated growth, Richards said. Company officials value cross-training and encourage skill-building as a means for advancement.

"It's a total blast working for Game Composites," he said. "We want people who are excited about making airplanes. It's in our DNA here to make aviation accessible to people from all backgrounds and welcome those who want to learn more."

Game Composites employees worked with U of A instructional designers to help create the overall course outline and content applicable to airplane manufacturing, Richards said.

For more information about the aerospace composite manufacturing course, funding through Reimagine and Game Composites, visit the course website, Reimagine website and company website.

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