Sun, May 06, 2012
RAA Says Industry Timing For Decision Is Not Optimal
The aviation industry is forecast to see an increase in demand for pilots and aviation workers in the coming years, which just makes a decision by St. Cloud State University in Minnesota harder to swallow. Some are saying that as government-mandated retirements and stricter regulations means aviation workers and pilots fall into short supply, the college’s decision to end its aviation program puts it at odds with an industry desperately needing employees.
Roger Cohen from the Regional Airline Association said "The need now for skilled aviation professionals and young people to get into aviation at any level is greater now than it's ever been. The opportunity is greater now than it's ever been." Many of the pilots over the last several decades came from the military, Cohen said, but those people are retiring and the industry has grown exponentially over that time. Jeff Johnson, teacher in St. Cloud’s aviation department says he doesn’t understand why the program is scheduled to close in two years. "I've heard the legislature talk about jobs, jobs, jobs," Johnson said. "There are a lot of degree programs out there that are producing graduates that can't get jobs."
Minnesota Public Radio reports that Administrators at St. Cloud State said the department's closure is part of a necessary university restructuring to help close a $20 million funding gap. Devinder Malhotra, provost and vice president for academic affairs, says St. Cloud State has refocused on creating graduates with a broad base of knowledge, not just ones ready for a specific job.
About 150 students are currently working towards aviation degrees and will be allowed to finish. But new students are no longer being admitted into the department. The closure of the aviation program could impact funding for St. Cloud Regional Airport, said Bill Towle, the airport’s head. SCSU students account for almost half of the airport’s operations and a reduction translates into reduced funding for the facility. "If we were to see a reduction in those operations, it just simply means there could be less funding for the airport, which for these projects out here: runway rehabs, taxiway rehabs, lighting projects. Those kinds of other projects are really needed out here.”
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