Southwest Tennessee Community College ready to take flight with the region’s first-ever two-year aviation program
Tennessee Board of Regents approved the launch of Southwest’s aviation operations technology program that is poised to increase diversity in a field historically underrepresented by people of color.
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(Memphis, Tenn.) - Tennessee Board of Regents December 9 unanimously approved a groundbreaking program at Southwest Tennessee Community College that aims to help area students take flight in the aviation industry, making it the first-ever two-year program of its kind in the state of Tennessee. The aviation program lifts off in January of 2022 with spring semester courses that will lead to an Associate of Applied Science in Aviation Operations Technology, a credential that will serve as a taxiway for students who may have never dreamed of careers in aviation.
“Aviation is a critical industry to the Mid-South economy and this program is another shining example of why community colleges exist,” Dr. Tracy D. Hall, President of Southwest Tennessee Community College said. “This new program will help address the critical shortage of commercial pilots and fuel the pipeline to jobs with FedEx and other major airlines in Memphis and beyond.”
Students who earn the A.A.S. in Aviation Operations Technology will be prepared to compete for entry-level aviation jobs ranging from crew scheduling to commercial pilots. “Graduates could enter the workforce immediately as flight dispatchers and safety coordinators earning $40,000 a year and higher,” Southwest Business and Technologies Dean Robin Cole said. “Graduates who complete the requisite flight training can work as commercial pilots and earn nearly $60,000 a year starting out.”
President Hall says another major benefit of the program to the Mid-South economy is that it opens the industry up to a new stream of potential employees who otherwise would not have the means to pursue aviation credentials and training. “The number of people of color working in aviation is not what it could be or needs to be,” Dr. Hall said. “Making this training accessible to people of color and low-income students could help close this gap and better meet the workforce needs of this industry.”
Southwest is partnering with such aviation organizations as the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP) to make the training accessible to students from all walks of life. “The Luke Weathers Flight Academy has been instrumental in program development and we have a great partnership with Air Venture that connected us with the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals that will help us garner the financial support needed to help make flight training more affordable for our students.”
Southwest also is partnering with area municipal schools to ensure a ready runway to aviation careers for area high school students. “We are working with Shelby County Schools to create a pathway for their dually-enrolled students who are already studying aviation so they can build on their studies to earn an aviation credential at Southwest,” Cole said. “From there, the sky is the limit.”
Pending approval by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), students may begin taking classes relative to the major when spring semester begins January 18, 2022, which means the first graduating class could be as early as Fall 2024.
Students may apply to enroll at Southwest at www.southwest.tn.edu. Tuition-free college, scholarships and laptops are available to eligible students. For more information about the aviation program, contact Dean of Business and Technologies Robin Cole at firstname.lastname@example.org.