UNK aviation program helps fill demand for workers
The University of Nebraska at Kearney has been helping fill the seats in aviation related jobs since 1981, but in recent years, the demand for workers in the field has gone up.
It's one of the only aviation programs offered at a university in the state and Program Director, Terry Gibbs, said he has never seen a higher demand for workers than he sees today.
Commercial pilot positions, maintenance technicians, air traffic controllers- all jobs in the aviation field that Gibbs said are in high demand.
"The average age of an ag pilot is over 50 now so they're going to be aging out, so even in the local economy we need younger people. So it really is a fantastic time to be whatever career in aviation you're looking at,” said Gibbs.
Gibbs said years ago there were too many pilots, making little money and not finding jobs. Now, a number of reasons could be why the field and the pay have grown. That could include more people traveling and the mandatory retirement age increasing.
"There have been multiple changes in rules and in law which mandates the amount of time a pilot can be flying has now been reduced, which means you have to have more pilots to cover the same schedule,” said Gibbs.
Gibbs said the UNK program is a hidden gem. They have a state of the art simulator and work with Big Air at the Kearney airport.
Gibbs said students in the program receive multiple certifications, beginning with private, single engineer and multi–engineer planes.
"Then we add a certificate so they can fly in the clouds as well as on clear days and then we add the commercial license as a graduation requirement and that will take people to about 220 hours of flight experience,” said Gibbs.
Along with elective course, students will fly over 1,000 hours- which is how much most airlines hire graduates with.
Gibbs said he expects demand to stay where it currently is in the next five years. He does not believe a grand shift will occur or that pay will increase drastically again.