Home to three major airports and an active air force base, the Inland Empire Region is a prime area for colleges and high schools to engage students in aviation programs.
Currently there are three established aviation-related programs among the region’s colleges, at San Bernardino Valley College, Victor Valley College and Chaffey College. On these campuses students can earn certificates and degrees in avionics and/or aircraft mechanics.
Larry McLaughlin, the region’s Clean Energy and Transportation Deputy Sector Navigator (DSN), has observed that there is increasing interest among neighboring colleges to establish their own aviation programs. Both College of the Desert and Mt. San Jacinto (MSJC) are exploring the possibility of developing their own aviation or drone-related programs.
McLaughlin said that area high schools are also looking at ways to incorporate aviation-related training into their programs, and some already have programs established. With all of this interest, McLaughlin sees the potential to create strong pathways from high school programs to those at the local community colleges.
“My role as a DSN is to try to bring these interested parties together to see if they have some common goals,” he said. “It’s important to engage them from the very beginning, especially at the high school level, so that we can create pathways that lead to college programs.”
McLaughlin plans to work with Temecula Valley High School and MSJC to explore the creation of a pathway that leads from the high school to a community college aviation program.
Another potential pathway being explored is connecting students from San Bernardino ROP to San Bernardino Valley College’s aviation program.
“San Bernardino ROP is working on a UAV/drone course for students in the upcoming school year, 18/19,” said McLaughlin, who has included them in a faculty discussion on May 4.
Drone exploration can be a great way for high schools to introduce aviation to their students. They learn principles of aviation and aeronautics, all while “playing” with a cool piece of technology that continues to become more mainstream.
“We need to find ways to meet students where they are in terms of their interests and enthusiasm,” said McLaughlin. “There’s a real opportunity to turn student interest into a potential career pathway.”
Another aspect of support McLaughlin provides is identifying funding possibilities to help get these programs off the ground. Regional Strong Workforce projects may help participating colleges obtain the funding they need to expand their existing programs or launch something new.
For more information about the aviation-related programs in the Inland Empire region, contact Larry McLaughlin at email@example.com.