NORTH LITTLE ROCK Ark.
Several Arkansas community colleges are teaming up to increase aviation education in the state.
Northwest Arkansas Community College in Bentonville and Pulaski Technical College in North Little Rock are members of the consortium that hopes to expand aviation programs, as interest in flying and fixing airplanes is on the rise.
“They’re hiring our students before they get out of school,” said Steve Hotle, who heads Pulaski Tech’s aviation program. “They don’t want to let them get away. They need people quicker than we can get them trained.”
Nine community colleges have formed a consortium to increase the state’s aviation offerings.
“We’re recognizing the emergence of the aerospace industry in the state,” said Edward Franklin, executive director of the Arkansas Association of Two-Year Colleges. “We’re looking at what we have and what we can do to meet the needs of the aerospace industry in Arkansas.”
The Federal Aviation Administration has certified 170 aviation maintenance programs throughout the country.
“The problem with the aviation industry is it’s all spread throughout the state,” Franklin said. “If we can provide the workforce, there will be a possibility of expansion for these types of companies in Arkansas.”
Aircraft mechanics and service technicians made a median wage of $21.77 per hour in May 2004, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Pulaski Tech’s program is based at the North Little Rock Airport. Hotle said the college plans to build a second hangar that will more than double the program’s instruction space.
Less than a decade ago, Pulaski Tech’s program had 30 students. Now it has 108, Hotle said.
“I think more schools like ours need to come into existence to meet the demand,” Hotle said. “Any place that has an airport has a need for mechanics right now.”
Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com
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