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President’s Podcast: SUU Aviation - Meeting the Needs of Students and Industry with Mike Mower

Solutions for Higher Education engages in deeper reflection of critical issues in the world of colleges and universities.aviation-involved-with-community-cedar-cityIn Episode 29, President Scott L Wyatt and Professor Steve Meredith are joined by Mike Mower to discuss the Aviation program at Southern Utah University. Mower is the Executive Director and Chief Flight Instructor for SUU’s Aviation Program.

“The mid-east market has exploded from just a sheer need of air transportation, and that in conjunction with this growing retirement of not only pilots, but mechanics, has created this perfect storm,” said Mower. “We have growth, we have retirements, and the Department of Transportation is now calling this the ‘silver wave’.”

The aviation industry is expected to create more than 2 million jobs over the next eighteen years. This, combined with the retirements of existing industry workers, is creating unprecedented growth in the aviation industry that no one is yet prepared to fill. With increase in demand comes economic opportunity.

“We completed a very interesting study on what the return on investment would be if somebody were to go into one of the big careers,” said Mower. “We looked at a doctor, an attorney, and then we compared an airplane pilot and a rotor pilot. The attorney, over the lifetime earnings, came back at about $35 for every dollar invested in education. The doctor came back at about $40 for every dollar. Rotor pilot came back at $45 for every dollar, and a fix-wing pilot came back at $55 for every dollar invested in education."

So far the opportunity in the aviation industry has mostly been taken advantage of by white men, with women and minorities making up less than six percent of pilots.

“We have wholeheartedly embraced the question at the SUU Aviation Department, ‘How do we reach out? And how do we educate women and minorities?’” said Mower. “There’s educational opportunities, there’s scholarships out there, there’s national organizations that are willing to help and we have made a commitment to our partners not only to produce highly qualified and educated pilots and mechanics, but to really increase the diversity. The only way the world is going to meet, or even come close, to the numbers that are required is to expand the group of people that are flying.”

In case a high paying career working anywhere in the world wasn’t appealing enough, the FAA also mandates time off. Flight hours are limited per week, month and year meaning that your work life balance is protected by federal regulation.

“I was comparing my hours at home with a pilot whose gone for a week and then back and it was pretty obvious that the pilot was home a lot more than I am,” said Wyatt. “I come home every night, but after everybody's in bed, and I’ve still got to work. This is one of the things, I think, that my brother enjoys so much about being a pilot. He gets to fly, he gets paid extremely well, and when he's not working he doesn't have a single work stress and he can just have a great time.”

In the aviation industry, there are high paying jobs with a great work life balance where you can travel the world. Steve Meredith may have summed it up best when he asked, “Do you have any openings in the program? We’ve chosen poorly.”

Listen to Episode 29 here.


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