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JetBlue Foundation Encourages STEM Education to Sustain the Future of Aviation

Submitted by: Joanna Geraghty

Posted: Aug 31, 2015 – 06:00 AM EST

Series: Education for a Sustainable Future

Tags: education, stem, avaiation, travel

 
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This is the most recent article in our series "Education for a Sustainable Future". For more articles, go to http://www.csrwire.com/blog/series/86-education-for-a-sustainable-future/posts

JetBlue started with a bold mission - to bring humanity back to air travel. We entered the industry at a time when airlines didn’t have the best reputation and we disrupted the model. We created an experience that made travelers actually want to come to the airport early and our customers still experience the most legroom in coach with service from the friendliest crewmembers in the sky. However, as we entered into our second decade, we began to take a deeper look at the future of our industry and what it will take to sustain our success. We decided we not only wanted to sustain our industry, we wanted to make it even better!

We began to think about the next generation of pilots and positions such as aircraft mechanics, maintenance technicians, dispatchers and route planners. One common theme became clear; all of these careers rely on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills. If students aren’t gravitating towards STEM courses, what will that mean for future of the aviation industry? 

Industry-wide less than three percent of commercial airline pilots are of color and only about two percent of commercial pilots are women. After hearing these staggering statistics, we set out to make a difference in our own sector by starting the JetBlue Foundation. In looking at our current crewmember landscape, our overall employee make-up is among the most diverse in the industry. Still, we noticed the careers that require a strong STEM educational background were lacking women and people of color and this was not just a JetBlue issue. This company-sponsored foundation was developed in 2013 to advance aviation-related education and sustain this industry that we love so much. The JetBlue Foundation is the first airline foundation focus solely on supporting aviation and STEM education.

As an airline, JetBlue has made a commitment to encourage STEM education by offering opportunities to students, as early as the grade school level, to STEM studies. In order to ensure the future success of the aviation industry, the JetBlue Foundation is taking this commitment even further. The Foundation provides educational opportunities and unique experiences to traditionally underserved communities.   

To date, we’ve awarded nearly $200,000 in grants and provided immeasurable in-kind support, internships and much more. Here are some of the unique ways STEM programs across the country are putting these grants to good use.  

  • SUN ‘n FUN (Lakeland, FL): SUN ‘n FUN, a nonprofit organization in Central Florida, is using their grant to further their mission to preserve and enhance the future of flight. They used their grant to purchase tools and educational items for powerplant mechanic students at Central Florida Aerospace Academy, a high school located in Lakeland, Florida. Students from Traviss Career Center, a vocational training facility as well as Polk State College will also use these items for STEM-focused education. According to 2009 Census estimates, 18 percent of adults in Polk County age 25 or older do not have a high school diploma or equivalent and poverty rates in the country are among the highest in Florida. This grant may potentially help the economic landscape of the entire county. 
  • Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP) (Headquarters in Chicago): This year, OBAP utilized their grant to bring the Aviation Career Education (ACE) Academy initiative to New York, Los Angeles/Long Beach, Jacksonville and San Juan, impacting more than 900 potential aviators.  The goal of the ACE Academy is to increase awareness of aviation-related careers among students from underserved areas. The ACE Academy includes a curriculum with presentations by aviation pioneers such as the Tuskegee Airmen and aviation professionals from a wide range of industry careers. Students also take part in special field trips where they receive hands-on flight training from pilots and aviation professions, certified FAA Flight Instructors and more. 
  • Utah Valley University (UVU) (Orem, UT): This flight school is located between the beautiful Rocky Mountains and Utah Lake. Its pilot training program is an ideal location for students interested in learning how to fly and obtaining their pilot license. The school plans to use their grant to create an aircraft dispatch program and begin an unmanned aircraft program. UVU’s student population is 44 percent female and also consists of nearly 900 veterans. This grant will allow the program to upgrade its online curriculum and extend its reach, placing an even stronger emphasis on technology and engaged learning.
  • Wings of Eagles Discovery Center (Elmira, NY): Wings of Eagles educates students through formal and informal education programs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). This grant is being used to create the Science on a Sphere STEM-based Exhibit and Curriculum which focuses on creating sustainable jet fuels from algae and will impact nearly 1,400 students.  The program serves under-represented ethnic groups and rural communities in western New York. 
  • Aviation High School (Long Island City, NY): Aviation High School, the nation’s largest public aeronautical high school, has already put their grant into action by launching an Aviation Welding Improvement Plan. Students at the high school level now have the resources to earn an FAA certification as an Aircraft Maintenance Technician. More than 2,300 students, primarily from under-represented groups, attend Aviation High School. This specialty high school is consistently ranked as a Grade A school and numerous JetBlue crewmembers have graduated from here. In fact, many graduated with certifications and transitioned directly into careers as maintenance technicians. 
  • CUNY Aviation Institute at York College (Jamaica, NY): With this grant, York College is developing a curriculum to establish an FAA-approved Aircraft Dispatcher Certification program, making it the first public education institution in New York to offer this type of program. More than 82 percent of the student population is from under-represented groups and 66 percent of the undergraduate student body is women. The majority of students at York College are first generation college students and the school has a large population of immigrants. 

The JetBlue Foundation is building lasting relationships with these programs beyond the initial grants. This includes mentoring high school and college students, building relationships with elementary school students and continuing to develop our University Gateway Program which leads to positions as Pilot Trainees with JetBlue.  We look forward to continuing to work with these programs and watching the students benefiting from these grants as they grow into the next leaders in our industry. 

To learn more about the JetBlue Foundation, visit www.jetblue.com/inspiringhumanity.

This is the most recent article in our series "Education for a Sustainable Future". For more articles, go to http://www.csrwire.com/blog/series/86-education-for-a-sustainable-future/posts

The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by CSRwire contributors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of CSRwire.

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