Thousands of flights were canceled during the holiday rush in December. Though COVID was said to be the blame for many of the cancellations, the root of the problem goes deeper. Where are all of the pilots? Having been predicted for many years, the pilot shortage is here, and has been amplified during the pandemic.
We have been working to increase interest in aviation careers for a number of years. Efforts have included developing our high school aviation programs (currently in six cities in North Dakota as well as distance education available to all schools), the aviation career expo and the North Dakota Aviation Association (NDAA) Scholarship program to name just some of our efforts. Recently the NDAA and the University of North Dakota – Aerospace partnered on a grant proposal for an FAA Workforce Development Grant. This proposal was awarded in the amount of nearly $500,000 which will be used to create professional development opportunities for teachers in our region.
Using grant funds, teachers will have the opportunity to attend professional development free of charge to learn more about opportunities for their students in aviation and aerospace. One of the professional development experiences will transport teachers, counselors and administrators to a variety of locations throughout eastern North Dakota and Minnesota highlighting careers in the aviation industry. In addition to learning about the opportunities for their students, teachers will be introduced to lessons, and curriculum available to bring into their classrooms. Our goal is to find more ways to bring aviation education into classrooms around our state. These may be in the form of aviation courses at the high school level, or integrated lessons at the primary level.
In addition to a tour of all things aviation, another opportunity for teachers being developed is professional development focused on unmanned aircraft. Funding will be available for equipment for classrooms as well as training and testing costs for teachers to receive their remote pilot certificate. We hope to see schools bringing drone racing or other UAS competitions into their offering of extra curriculars.
We know that the industry has a need for pilots, mechanics, UAS operators, and many other areas of the industry. I know that we will be talking about this for years to come. My hope is that through partnerships like this bringing together the NDAA and UND Aerospace with FAA funding will bring students closer to the amazing opportunities available in our industry.
Mike McHugh, Aviation Education Coordinator
North Dakota Aeronautics Commission
701-328-9650 | email@example.com