For some, sliding into a cockpit, flicking a bunch of complex switches and coasting up into the endless blue sky is something of an adventurous dream. For students at Fox Valley Technical College and UW-Oshkosh, however, it’s a reality. What’s even better? It’s not just a hobby – it’s a smart career choice.
In an industry expected to need 500,000 pilots by 2030, the pilots and technicians of the next generation will have incredible opportunities for employment. Thanks to a recent collaboration on a new aviation management emphasis, graduates with a flight-related associate degree from FVTC can transfer credits into UWO’s program and receive a bachelor’s degree.
“It really provides a valuable path for our students,” says Jared Huss, lead instructor-aeronautics at FVTC. “Not only do they have the hands-on and technical skills, they get a background in leadership as well.” Huss, who oversees the program’s operations, believes the opportunity offers the best of both worlds – graduates can be working in a field and gaining experience while still continuing their education and building management skills.
“Flexibility is key,” he says. “They’re able to continue their education in the program anywhere because it’s 100 percent online.”
Sarah Smith, outreach program manager at UWO, agrees that the most unique aspect of the program is its adaptability. “It’s an accelerated seven-week course that runs all year round.”
In addition, Smith also believes this could be an excellent chance for those who graduated not quite as recently to pick up their education. “We think it’s a wonderful opportunity for people who perhaps got their associate degree a long time ago to go back and get that degree that will open more doors for them. It will give students the extra skills to make them promotable.”
“We typically see 100 percent grad placement in the first six months,” Huss adds, referring to alumni of the current flight-training programs at FVTC. Lately employment has been in the high 90-percent range, but Huss feels optimistic about how the aviation field, and graduates of FVTC specifically, have weathered the recession. Thanks to the opening of this new aviation management program, he “anticipates staying in the high 90s, if not reaching 100 percent.”
As far as cost goes, Smith is happy to say that the program between FVTC and UWO continues to offer benefits to students. “When you look at the cost of our degree program, its very reasonably priced compared to four-year programs in this field.”
The impact on the aviation industry is expected to be significant. With a combination of a technical-focused associate degree and a leadership-focused bachelor’s degree, the pilots and mechanics of tomorrow’s flight industry are shaping up to be prepared and confident in their fields. “This really provides a pathway for the next generation of aviation leaders,” Huss says.
– Laurel McKenzie