Aviation program focuses on West Virginia students’ passion and dreams

Education Alliance hosting event at Yeager Airport’s Bill Noe Flight School

By Matt Young, West Virginia Press Association

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The sky’s the limit on March 30, when The Education Alliance hosts EDTalks at Yeager Airport’s Bill Noe Flight School.

The Sky’s the Limit EDTalks will feature two distinguished speakers: Education Alliance Board Member and 2023 W.Va. State Teacher of the Year Amber Nichols and Marshall University’s Chief Aviation Officer – and flight school namesake – Bill Noe. The event, which begins at 11:30 a.m., is free to attend and open to the public. 

Attendees to the event will have the opportunity to interact with both Nichols and Noe, as well as tour the facilities at the Bill Noe Flight School.  Registration for the event is required and may be completed by visiting educationalliance.org, or the event page. Attendees are encouraged to register early, as space is limited. Lunch will be provided to all registered attendees.

“The Education Alliance Board of Directors is made up of industry leaders from across the state,” said Amelia Courts, president and CEO of The Education Alliance. “We have manufacturing, healthcare, finance – a variety of industries and really good geographic representation.”

Education Alliance President and CEO Dr. Amelia Courts.

“We had a board member from the Wood County-area and a board member from the Huntington County-area,” Courts said. “Both of those board members said, ‘We really need to start paying attention to the aviation industry.’”

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) estimates the passenger-growth of domestic airlines to be 4.9% per year for the next 20 years.  Recognizing the opportunities which this growth provides to West Virginia’s youth, Education Alliance Board Member and Marshall University First Lady Alys Smith soon arranged for her fellow board members to tour the Bill Noe Flight School facility. 

“We began to dig into the opportunities for high school students,” Courts said. “The Marshall flight school, and the other flight schools and aviation programs across West Virginia, have prepared this opportunity for higher education students. Now we have to build a pipeline. We have to get kids interested in middle school – in high school – so that the recruiting aspect is easy on the higher ed side.”

“We have to have students and parents and families engaged and interested, and aware, frankly, of these kinds of opportunities,” Courts noted. 

According to Courts, The Education Alliance hopes to open the pipeline to not only the various flight schools throughout the state, but to training on aviation maintenance as well. 

As explained on their website, “The Education Alliance is a nonprofit organization that advocates for a quality public education for all West Virginia children. It was established in July 1983 by business executives who saw the importance of supporting public schools and giving the business community a voice in education.” It is the goal of The Education Alliance that, “Every West Virginia public school student will graduate ready to begin a career or pursue additional education and training.”

“What we’re learning in education is that technical careers are first class,” Courts said. “They’re first class in terms of high wage, and they’re first class in terms of high skill. No longer are you seeing this two-tiered system where you have professional vs. technical careers.”

“We want every student in West Virginia, whether their passion and dream is more on the technical/maintenance side, or more on the pilot side, we want them all to have equal opportunity and vision for what their future can look like,” Courts added. 

During EDTalks, Noe, a former Marshall University Hall of Fame swimmer and accomplished business executive, will discuss the importance of education in aviation, as well as his contributions to the Bill Noe Flight School.

Nichols, a kindergarten teacher with 21 years experience in the West Virginia school system, will speak about the challenges and rewards of being an educator in the Mountain State. 

“What we’re seeing right now is a double win,” Courts said. “We’re seeing opportunities with new, large companies moving to West Virginia, and then we’re also seeing the national growth in aviation opportunities.”

“We want to be an aviation hub for the region beyond West Virginia,” Courts added. “But we also want to make sure that we have a strong aviation network and workforce.”

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