Even before they parade across a stage wearing caps and gowns, seven graduating aerospace students from Florida’s Polk State College know they’ve already landed an aviation job.
Regional air carrier ExpressJet made a commitment with 55 colleges and universities to hire graduating aviation students as long as they maintain their grades and accumulate sufficient flight time (a minimum that varies between 1,000 and 1,500 flight hours, depending on the school’s credentials) to proceed with the airline’s pilot training program.
In a news release from Polk State, Peter Ryan, an ExpressJet pilot recruiter, said he “could not have been more impressed with the way Polk State students performed during the interview process.”
The carrier’s Airline Pilot Pathway Program, known as AP3, allows pilots to enter new-hire training programs, and after completion of that training, the pilots begin their careers with ExpressJet as first officers.
Naturally, as they gain experience, many first officers upgrade from the right seat to the left seat as captains with ExpressJet.
Ryan said he was very impressed with the Florida-based college which prides itself on smaller classes and hands-on learning. “To be quite honest, the word exceptional comes to mind,” Ryan said in the news release. “The students did a fantastic job and the staff was immediately asking for feedback, which shows they care about the quality of the students. That’s why we’re so happy to be partnering with Polk State.”
The airline’s pathway program partnership began in the fall of 2015, and since then 54 students have landed job offers. The seven pilots from Polk State comprise more than 10 percent of the total number of graduating pilots who can already count on a job after classes end.
“It’s a relief. Two years ago, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life,” said John Reichert, who is on track to graduate with an associate degree as a professional pilot. “Now I’m about to have a degree, and I have a job waiting for me when I’m done. It’s an awesome feeling.”
During a job fair in Atlanta, three ExpressJet pilots reiterated the benefits of the new program. Kimberly Ewing, Larry Hattaway, and Jason Schlup said the program helps applicants prepare for their job interview and is a key ingredient in helping aspiring pilots launch their aviation careers.
Polk State Aerospace Program Director Eric Crump said he was impressed with ExpressJet’s company and its culture. “Our students wanted to be a part of that, and now seven of them are already on their way,” he said.
Crump said in the release that the school offers relevant classroom and practical flight instruction with input from a variety of aviation companies. “We are really excited for our students, you can imagine what it does for their morale. It thrills me to see that training validated with jobs for our students, especially when it’s 100 percent of our students who apply.”