Harbor Style 07173166 : Page 47

An online course, Aviation Management and Operations, unites two areas of interest – aviation and business. WMU says this course is “designed to prepare tomorrow’s aviation business leaders, today.” Students will gain essential knowledge of aircraft systems, aerodynamics and performance, aviation law and aircraft safety, as well as build a solid foundation in business theory and practice. Graduates will be poised to attain a position in airport management, operation management, safety management, aviation insurance, aircraft sales or aviation marketing. They may be flight operators, crew or flight schedulers, air traffic controllers, flight followers, aerospace defense professionals or handle airline customer service. The educational programs to be offered at WMU Punta Gorda will not be limited to aviation-related training. Twenty additional fields of study will be added, including some master’s degrees in various healthcare specialties, another area in need of trained workers. “They looked at what the community needs, then proposed programs not already in existence,” said EDO Director Lucienne Pears. WMU representatives said their online programs are designed to give everyone a chance to succeed and grow, adding that they provide a work-life-school balance, even for someone supporting a family. “We’re opening the door to multi-generational and multi-lifestyle education.” Downloadable application forms, class schedules and class and flight fees are available on the WMU website wmich.edu. The EDO website says that experts predict that more than one million new aviation jobs will open up in the coming years thanks to growth of the aviation industry. There is already a shortage of trained and qualified workers for those positions, especially since there is a mandatory retirement age of 65 for pilots and some other workers. Many “new hires” will “earn their wings” right here in Charlotte County thanks to the partnership with WMU, FSW, CCAA and other county authorities that enhances our ability to respond to aviation industry needs. WMU officials said, “We welcome partnering with any businesses that want to get employees.” Commercial airlines and other local aviation industry providers are certainly excited about the new workforce. One of the many aviation-related tenants at PGD is APG Avionics, where they install and maintain instrument panel electronics, digital control boards, GPS systems and radios. Todd Wean, their service and sales manager, said due to PGD’s rapid expansion, APG is currently seeking additional employees to accommodate their own growth. One of their recent hires, Nathan Huck, is a Port Charlotte High School and Charlotte Technical College graduate and a student of FSW and WMU. Allegiant Air said there are multiple trained pilot and maintenance technician positions they are hoping to fill with local graduates. Numerous community leaders have acknowledged the economic and educational benefits of the WMU programs. “We’re about attracting businesses and higher education that can… develop a skilled workforce that can help these companies be successful not just for the next five years, but for the next 50 years,” said Punta Gorda Mayor Rachel Keesling. Commissioner Joe Tiseo is thrilled that his children will have an opportunity he never had. “They can choose to stay here in Charlotte County and study locally at WMU and help grow the local workforce,” he said. Western Michigan’s Punta Gorda College of Aviation is “Cleared for Takeoff.” H ARBOR STYLE | 47

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