With the aviation industry facing a nationwide shortage of pilots, mechanics, and skilled aviation professionals, there has never been a better time to introduce students to opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). AOPA and its You Can Fly program built a high school curriculum to rally aviation’s next generation. AOPA’s aviation-based STEM curriculum will be deployed during the 2018-2019 school year.
AOPA’s aviation STEM curriculum, the first of its kind, includes comprehensive, four-year aviation study options aligned with rigorous math and science standards used in many states nationwide. So far, 72 schools have signed on. AOPA is developing these courses as part of three career and technical education pathways: pilot, unmanned aircraft systems (drones), and aerospace engineering.
AOPA will release new material each year until all four high school grade levels of the curriculum are complete. In addition to the 72 schools (and counting) that will implement the ninth-grade curriculum in the fall, 25 schools will also test the tenth-grade curriculum, which includes lesson plans, presentations, assessments, and other materials. The curriculum is provided to schools at no cost. Donors to the AOPA Foundation fund development and distribution of the curriculum, as well as other initiatives of the You Can Fly program.
According to a 2017 Boeing study, there is growing demand for aviation industry jobs, and that trend is not expected to slow down. An estimated 637,000 new commercial aircraft pilots; 648,000 technicians; and 839,000 cabin crew members will be needed globally over the next 20 years.
“With an unprecedented demand for careers in aviation, we are thrilled that so many high schools are utilizing our STEM curriculum to inspire students and give them the skills to pursue future careers in aerospace,” said AOPA President Mark Baker. “Planting the seeds for the future workforce of our industry is part of AOPA’s mission to keep aviation vibrant. We are grateful to the AOPA Foundation donors who make such programs possible. Their generosity is helping us make a difference in the lives of thousands of youth and to spur interest in aviation.”
Before implementing the curriculum, teachers are required to participate in a three-day professional development workshop at AOPA headquarters in Frederick, Maryland, to gain a deeper understanding of the materials, learn about available resources, and network with other aviation educators.