What ATK means for Weber State

ATK designed and patented Automated Stiffener Forming Machine which produces high-rate composite stringers for the skeleton of an aircraft.

ATK has officially opened its brand-new 615,000-square-foot Aircraft Commercial Center of Excellence in Clearfield. What began as 100 new highly paid and advanced jobs at the end of August will grow to 700 more available jobs over the next 20 years, generating almost $1 billion in wages along the way.

The new facility in Davis County will create a full-service engineering and manufacturing plant for the structures and components of composite commercial aircraft. The Boeing 787 and Airbus A350 will be the facility’s focus and main products.

“The new ATK plant comes with great timing,” said Kirk Hagen, chair of engineering at Weber State University. “In the 125-year history of Weber State, this new program (Bachelor of Electronics Engineering) is a year old, and the ATK sparks new progression.”

The new composite technology is pioneering its way into commercial airliners. The lightweight yet strong composite components manufactured on site include framing for support across the diameter of the aircrafts and stringers, which provide support along the length of the aircraft’s frame.

Growth at the plant has already been implemented. In the next two years, 275 new jobs for servicing these General Electric and Rolls-Royce engine parts will spring up. The ATK facility was designed to meet the growing demands of commercial aircraft production, and is capable of manufacturing more than 10,000 parts per month.

This new site in Clearfield will also pool its candidates for internships and jobs from WSU students and graduates.

“ATK offers summer and year-round internships for qualified candidates.  We generally see the most interest in engineering, but other organizations participate as well such as finance, supply chain, IT,” stated Heather Kralik, senior manager of communications of ATK Aerospace Structures, in an email to The Signpost. “As for full-time positions, we are working multiple shifts, which could work nicely based on a student’s schedule.”

Another major that applies directly to the new positions at ATK is the Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering program, which was also introduced to WSU only a year ago. The facility’s main advisers and managers will bring new assistance in November at their planned meeting with WSU professors.

“This is a large company with diverse needs, and we plan to find out how to meet those needs,” said Dave Ferro, the dean of the applied sciences and technologies department. “This meeting will help us learn how to prepare students to be the driving force of these new innovations. This is a chance for Weber State to be a part of the equation and to build an important relationship.”

Utah has been home to several ATK sites and will continue to be, according to Kralik.

“Utah has provided a business friendly environment for ATK and with that comes an educated, highly skilled workforce — Weber is definitely a draw,” stated Kralik. “We have a number of graduates from Weber State University in all levels of the company.  Interestingly, our CEO is a graduate of WSU.”

The ATK relations will bring donations of expensive composite materials, internships and scholarship opportunities to WSU. Last year alone, ATK donated close to $29,000 to WSU’s brand-new composite engineering emphasis program.

“The meeting and the years to follow will help us find out how to directly train our students to fit the needs of the new technology demands and take advantage of the opportunities,” said Rick Orr, the department chair of the Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering program.

ATK announced its first step into composite construction early in May, when it received a $240 million contract to produce components such as the upper and lower panels and engine parts for the F-35 aircraft. That contract called for the company to produce the components using its automated fiber-placement technology. ATK has received $100 million to develop this additional manufacturing facility for commercial aviation projects.

“Over the last few years, ASD has won orders of approximately $1 billion in commercial aircraft with programs such as the Airbus A350 aircraft, Rolls-Royce Trent XWB and General Electric’s GEnx engines,” continued Kralik. “TK’s Aircraft Commercial Center of Excellence, which we call ACCE, is 615,000 square feet dedicated to producing composite components for next generation aircraft.”