The award recognizes truly unique and service-oriented state aviation programs, projects, and activities. Many innovative aviation programs that began at the state level have spread to other states or in some cases have been adopted or accepted by the federal government and the aviation community. This year, NASAO recognized Oklahoma Aeronautics for its education program which has impacted thousands of students with varying levels of awareness, exposure, and certification to better prepare them for a career in the aviation and aerospace industry.
A renewed vision for the program started several years ago with a strategic focus to add aviation and aerospace curricula at all school levels with special attention placed on expanding the AOPA “You Can Fly” high school curriculum. There was a considerable outreach effort to connect the agency to schools across the state and create a team involving higher education, industry, government, and primary educational institutions to better address workforce challenges the aviation and aerospace industry is encountering across the 77 counties in Oklahoma.
Developers of the program believe it will be an innovative template for state aviation agencies looking to address the aviation and aerospace workforce challenges that the industry will face in their respective states while also providing a holistic approach to both awareness of the career opportunities and advocating for solutions to partner with education providers.
“I had the opportunity to observe the aero education grant process and was inspired to see Oklahoma math, science, and technology teachers immersing themselves in this program to benefit this generation of students,” said Secretary of Transportation Tim Gatz.
Oklahoma Aeronautics hopes to encourage other states to implement similar programs to address national workforce issues.
“Today, Oklahoma is leading the Country with our innovative AERO Ed Program by having the largest number of AOPA “You Can Fly” High Schools along with one of the largest aerospace and aviation education grant budgets focused on a wide variety of educational programs. We also had the privilege to be selected by the FAA for one of their Workforce Development Grants for our statewide workforce development initiative,” said State Director of Aeronautics Grayson Ardies.
Paula Kedy, the agency’s aero education expert, has been working for the last two years traveling across the state to share how impactful this program can be while raising Oklahoma to the top spot in the nation for aviation education. Oklahoma routinely impacts close to 30,000 students and hundreds of teachers, counselors, and superintendents each year through its grant program, seminars, and conferences. As an example, at its August Commission meeting, just over $450,000 was distributed to nearly 60 different aviation-related school systems and organizations.
“We are honored to be recognized for the development of a program that is so critical to the advancement of our industry workforce,” stated Kedy. “Oklahoma schools are recognizing the need to prepare students to enter Oklahoma’s second leading industry, and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to guide them in the development of strong aviation education programs.”
NASAO is the nationally recognized voice for the public interest in aviation on behalf of the states and territories. Its mission is to encourage and foster cooperation throughout the public sector in the development and promotion of a national aviation system that safely and effectively serves the needs of citizens, commerce, and communities throughout the United States.