How Metro State and Lockheed Martin are growing aerospace careers

The university is partnering with industry to fill the skill and diversity gaps

Filling the skill gap and work-force diversity were hot topics at the groundbreaking of Metropolitan State University Denver’s $60 million Aerospace and Engineering Sciences (AES) building last fall. The new  118,000-square-foot, four-story facility will house laboratories, classrooms and spaces such as the Institute for Advanced Manufacturing.

The AES facility is expected to open by start of fall semester 2017, and will be home to a program MSU created collaboratively with the state space industry, one of many public-private partnerships the growing city university has pursued.   

Lockheed Martin Space Systems, based in Littleton, has been closely involved in the AES project, teaming up on a cooperative program that links the classroom to practical professional experience. 

“The Lockheed Martin-MSU partnership has been a win-win,” said John Heyliger, director of talent acquisition and workforce strategy at Lockheed Martin. “We came together because we both have the same goal: Develop a diverse, creative pool of outstanding engineers who learn and work in Colorado’s thriving aerospace industry.”

University President Stephen Jordan decided to chip away at the advanced-manufacturing challenge in Colorado, both with AES and by bringing together six departments at the university that were “vertically aligned” – electrical engineering, computer sciences and mechanical engineering technology – creating an integrated curriculum that applies to the study of manufacturing.

“I think higher ed in general is known to be vertically aligned,” Jordan said. “In academic departments, nothing goes sideways. And what’s made it more difficult on our campus is we have three different institutions sharing the same buildings,” he said, referring to the Community College of Denver and University of Colorado Denver also on the Auraria campus. “In the work place, there isn’t just a single discipline. There’s the achievement of a goal and people all working together in an integrated way.”

So Jordan and his collaborators asked themselves: How can you create horizontal relationships?

“Bring them together into a single physical space,” Jordan said.

Togetherness is also reflected in MSU Denver’s commitment to diversity. Because one in five Coloradans is Latino and that population is the fastest-growing segment in the state, the university has publicly pledged to achieve the federal designation of Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) by increasing its Latino enrollment to 25 percent.

MSU Denver currently offers two certificates, one in additive manufacturing engineering and another in advanced composite materials and manufacturing. By the start of the coming academic year, the university will offer a four-year degree in advanced manufacturing. The Colorado Advanced Manufacturing Association is moving its offices into the building as well.

“We’re on MSU’s Industry Advisory Council to provide insights into where the industry is headed and the skills students will need when they enter the work force,” Lockheed Martin’s Heyliger said. “We’re also helping consult on the development of lesson plans, lab space and technology road maps, bringing our perspective on the trends and tools that will shape the future. We’re also helping strengthen the MSU pipeline by developing a co-op program that is designed to give MSU students real-world experience in advanced manufacturing.”

Heyliger adds that because 75 percent of MSU Denver students remain in-state post-graduation, the likelihood for tapping local talent is stronger than at other universities.

Celebrating its 50th anniversary, MSU Denver boasts a diverse student population, with enrollment including many minorities and first-generation college students, as well as an older, working student base.

“What’s most unique about Metro – it goes back to our founder, Roy Romer, who said he wanted a school for scrappy kids,” Jordan said.

By the Numbers

$10 Billion

The rough estimate for the value of the aerospace industry, according to Mark Cotteleer, research director at Deloitte Services, though rapid growth in the industry has future projections coming to $20 billion by 2020.


Percentage of MSU Denver students who are people of color.


Percentage of MSU students studying science, engineering, technology or math.


Colorado’s national ranking for private sector aerospace employment.


Approximate number of consulting, engineering, manufacturing and supplier companies that provide space-related products and services in Colorado.


Alongside Lockheed Martin, MSU Denver has racked up P3s in and around the Mile High City. Here are just a few more.

• SAGE Hospitality– The strong relationship has allowed for the development of the Hospitality Learning Center, helping to meet the needs of the tourism industry in-state and beyond. The SpringHill Suites Denver Downtown is a fully functioning, student-run hotel that broke even after two years of operation.

• Tivoli Brewing Co. – The Department of Hospitality, Tourism and Events, in partnership with Tivoli Brewing Co., constructed a brewpub and medium-scale brewery in the Tivoli Student Union on the Auraria Campus, opened last summer.

• DazBog– The campus coffee shop, which opened about four years ago, fuels students, staff and faculty members, and provides employment opportunities for students. According to MSU Denver President Stephen Jordan, upon opening the coffee house, the brand made an initial gift that serves as an endowment for students, and a percent of gross sales go into that endowment, as well.

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