Excerpted from a press release on the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission website
The Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission has approved $132,000 in aerospace and aviation education funding for nine deserving programs across the Oklahoma City-metro area. The funding is part of more than $200,000 the agency is providing over the next 12 months to programs statewide aimed at exposing more Oklahoma young people to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and careers in the aviation and aerospace industry.
“There is nothing more important that we do here at the Aeronautics Commission than to encourage young people to consider aviation as a career when they finish their post-secondary education,” Director of Aeronautics Vic Bird said. “It’s no secret that our state’s aerospace industry – one of our state’s top economic engines – needs more skilled workers, especially as our workforce approaches retirement age. These worthwhile programs receiving state funding are doing their part to help make sure that that happens. So we are more than happy to join them in that endeavor.”
The Aeronautics Commission’s aerospace and aviation education funding supports Gov. Mary Fallin’s Oklahoma Works initiative that aims to address the skills gap in the state’s workforce by increasing the number of students in the state with workforce credentials or associate degrees. Oklahoma Works brings all of the state’s workforce resources together, connecting employers, employees and job-seekers to information and programs that help build Oklahoma’s workforce.
“Providing more highly trained, highly skilled workers to Oklahoma business and industry is essential to boosting state prosperity and creating more jobs,” Gov. Fallin said. “I am excited to see the Aeronautics Commission's support of Oklahoma Works and our efforts to get Oklahomans the skills and educational opportunities they need to find great careers."
The largest grant recipient is the University of Oklahoma, Norman, for its Sooner Flight Academy and Aviation Science in the Classroom program. More than $50,000 will be used to provide scholarships and curriculum. OU aviation officials expect approximately 600 students to participate in the two programs. The Sooner Flight Academy has been one of the Aeronautics Commission’s biggest and longest-running recipients for education funding, garnering nearly $800,000 in grants and contracts since fiscal year 2001.
“The flight academy has been in existence since 1989 and challenges students six through 18 years of age to learn the principles of flight using science and math,” said academy director Matt Esker. “This summer, we had 341 total campers, which was the largest total in the six years that I have been with the program.”
Aerospace and aviation education is one of the Aeronautics Commission’s top priorities. Since FY2001, it has provided $2.3 million in aerospace and education funding to organizations and programs throughout the state. Just within the last 5 years alone, the Commission has awarded nearly $1 million in education grants and contracts.
The mission of the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission is to promote aviation, which includes ensuring that the needs of commerce and communities across the state are met by the state’s 110 publicly owned airports that comprise the Oklahoma Airport System, and helping ensure the growth and viability of the state’s aerospace industry.