After VBACE’s session on how to connect with students, a little research shows Central Florida is packed with aviation and aerospace education programs. Regional groups, such as Central Florida Business Aviation Association, remain key to steering those students toward careers in business aviation.
The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity designated several aviation-related careers, including aircraft mechanics and service technicians, airline pilots and commercial pilots as high-demand, high-skill, high-wage occupations in Central Florida and statewide. In its Jobs 2030 report, the Florida Chamber of Commerce also identified aerospace and aviation as one of five priority industries for sustaining Florida’s future.
Florida public schools and community colleges have embraced aviation education following a trend repeated around the country.
The latest effort teams the Aldrin Family Foundation, NASA, Explorer At Large, Public Consulting Group and the University of Kansas in Project Ianos to attract the next generation to aerospace jobs. The $175,000 grant will develop and deploy videos and hands-on learning tools targeted at 3.8 million under-represented students in grades five through eight. The Project Ianos team includes leaders in storytelling, educational curriculum development and teacher training. Focusing on under-represented groups is important because doing such good is good for the bottom line, numerous studies have found.
Eau Gallie High School in Melbourne launched the school’s Aviation Fabrication and Assembly program nearly five years ago but today students work on biz jets and helicopters, guided by Aviation Technology Teacher Bill McInnish, who said he can’t keep up with the local demand for skilled manufacturing workers.
Also in Melbourne, is Florida Prep with its long aviation education history.
Eastern Florida State College has been in the aviation education business for more than a decade with the establishment of Embraer Executive Jets at MLB. According to the Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast, 23% of the 20,346 jobs created in Brevard County from 2015-2018 were in manufacturing.
The Eau Gallie program is part of a national trend toward adopting aviation/aerospace education for STEM subjects and a move toward more career & technical education. Many companies are also creating apprenticeship programs and counties have developed adult and community education programs. Even so, manufacturing, a hallmark of the Central Florida economy, has to overcome a perception problem with students and parents who prefer college. Such certification training has an 86% placement rate and at Eau Gallie it is 100%.
Recently, a new program was established in Lakeland as International Aero Academy and Central Christian College teamed up with Tecnam U.S. to create a new, four-year aviation degree program aiming to slash the cost of an aviation education and replenish the career pilot pipeline. Dade City’s Pasco-Hernando State College just inaugurated a state-funded flight program for aspiring pilots using Red Bird Flight Simulators.
Leesberg High School’s Spark Club recently toured the airport as part of an effort to attract more kids to aviation/aerospace by showing them there are good-paying home town jobs. Led by Sandi Moore, executive director of the Leesburg Area Chamber of Commerce, and Tracy Dean, Leesburg International Airport Manager, students heard from EAA Chapter 534, Brianard Helicopters, Skybolt Aerospace Fasteners and Wipaire, which manufacturers aircraft floats.
Next door, Seminole County recently had a public schools Aviation Day partnering with Sanford Airport Authority, Seminole State College and Seminole County Public Schools which focused on elementary and middle schools. Schools partnered with Orlando Sanford Airport after educators identified a demand for qualified workforce. Seminole County Public Schools also has a dual-enrollment agreement with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
And let’s not forget Sun ‘n’ Fun which recently hosted a Holiday Flying Festival attracting between 4,000 and 7,000 including Santa and Mrs. Claus arriving in a Stearman PT–17. Little wonder the Central Florida Flying Academy is nearby.
So, now all we have to do is contact each program and tell them about business aviation opportunities.