SPRINGFIELD, Mo. Continuing our courageous conversation: Nobody’s Business, about the lack of workers as baby boomers retire.
There’s a specific partnership here in Springfield that’s created more jobs, and helps with the workforce shortage in the aviation industry.
This partnership is between OTC’s flight school and the Premier Flight Center.
Both organizations said this flight school would basically not be possible without working together.
“I graduated high school a year early because I saw that this program was opening up and it was super interesting to me,” said Sarah Tindell, the flight operations specialist and the student relations liaison at Premier flight center.
Tindell wouldn’t have been able to attend a flight school if it weren’t for the partnership between Premier flight center and OTC.
Plus, she’s only 18-years-old.
“The opportunity combined as a whole has been a fantastic learning experience, because I learned while I’m at work, in addition to the normal time that I’m at school, learning my flight training,” Tindell explained.
And training workers in the aviation industry is a huge need right now.
“They have lowered the mandatory retirement age for an airline pilot, so they’re all retiring sooner and there’s not enough to keep filling the seats,” explained Corina Bond, general manager at the Premier flight center.
“There are shortages in pretty much every avenue of aviation right now,” said Tindell.
“Not only just pilots but mechanics, avionics technicians, support people,” said Art Formanek, chair of the aviation technology department at OTC.
Formanek said the industry is seeing this shortage because lots of people are retiring.
“But one of the statistics from Boeing says even if there are no retirements there are so many openings, it would take us 15 years with our existing flight schools to be able to meet the demand,” explained Cindy Stephens, the director of technical innovation at OTC.
And with the lack of workforce, Stephens said organizations looked for solutions by working together.
“Premier flight center was already a well-established flight company, they’re doing it at 200 universities, so it’s a nice fit,” Formanek said.
“We would still be waiting to have enough money to get planes if we didn’t have this partnership,” said Stephens.
Stephens also said this is a perfect arrangement, as each organization brings their strengths to the table, “OTC focuses on seated courses like aviation weather or aviation safety. And premier focuses exclusively on the flight labs.”
“OTC obviously feeds us a good line of students each and every semester,” said Bond, “they work with us on getting students where they need to be, financial aid wise, so it’s been a great partnership.”
Having a flight school here in Springfield really helps with the shortage of workforce in the aviation industry because as soon as this flight school opened, there were dozens of people on the waitlist trying to get in.
Students say they wouldn’t have their piloting careers take off if they had to go to the next closest flight school, which is almost three hours away.
“For people who are in this area, especially if they already have families here, driving two to three hours several days a week really isn’t an option,” Stephens said.
“Not having to drive and go to college away or actually move away to another flight school in another location has been a tremendous help, because it’s right here in my hometown,” explained Tindell.
“You talk about a partnership, this is a triple win. Between the airport, between OTC, and between Premier,” said Stephens, “everybody wins.”
And another advantage of having the flight school here in town is economic development.
Because when a major airline like United or Delta is in need of a pilot, they will steal from the regional carriers, which means students can graduate from this flight school, and have opportunities directly with a major airline.