In the early days of the COVID19 pandemic, runways were nearly vacant, but staff from Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission were knocking on the doors of high school superintendents and school counselors across Oklahoma’s 77 counties to talk about an emerging aviation curriculum available to their students.
Now, many Oklahoma schools will launch their own aviation programs for high school students in the upcoming school year, including Enid High School and Chisholm High School.
OAC has implemented this curriculum to support Oklahoma’s commitment to solving workforce challenges and to ensure that the state’s second-largest industry, aviation and aerospace, will continue to be a major economic driver for the state, OAC said in a news release. The four-year “You Can Fly” high school curriculum developed by Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) is being adopted by school districts at a record pace throughout the state, according to the release. On Tuesday evening, during a fourday training conference, teachers and industry leaders met at the University of Oklahoma’s National Weather Center to celebrate the growth of aviation and aerospace education in the state, and to discuss ways to partner in the building of programs that will ensure the growth of Oklahoma’s aviation, aerospace and defense industry workforce.
Area aviation teachers Travis Buford, of Chisholm High School, and Jayson Crowley, of Enid High School, attended the conference as they gear up for the program launch in August.
“With Enid’s industrial base, this program just makes sense,” Buford said. “I look forward to working with Jayson and our industrial partners to make this an exceptional program that benefits our students and community.”
Buford said the fact many schools in Oklahoma have bought into this program shows educators’ commitment to training people for the jobs of tomorrow.
“I am retired Air Force,” Buford said. “I did aviation for a living. I am excited to show kids how to get there and open their minds to some of the jobs that are out there.”
Crowley has 23 years of Army aviation experience and said he is excited to provide this opportunity for students.
“I’m extremely excited to teach the AOPA curriculum course,” Crowley said. “The pathways include pilot and drones. It will be taught for scholars in ninth through 12th grade. The AOPA curriculum is great; it creates a pipeline for aviation jobs right out of high school through career and technical programs.”
Oklahoma Lt. Governor Matt Pinnell announced Tuesday night that Oklahoma is first in the nation for the number of schools approved to teach the AOPA aviation curriculum starting this fall, according to the OAC release.
There will be 58 school districts across the state signed onto the program, according to OAC.
“I want to make Oklahoma a top 10 state in every category, and I am so proud that Oklahoma is ranked first in the nation for high schools teaching the AOPA curriculum,” Gov. Kevin Stitt said. “Thanks to innovative leadership and the work of Oklahoma Aeronautics, we are helping young people find a passion for aviation and aerospace. As a pilot, I am excited to see what the future brings for the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission and the aerospace industry in our state.”