‘The Sky’s the Limit’ EDTalks event set for Thursday at 11:30am

By Matt Young, WV Press Association

The Sky’s the Limit on Thursday as the Education Alliance hosts the latest in its “EDTalks” series – this time at Marshall University’s Bill Noe Flight School at Yeager International Airport in Charleston.

Thursday’s program, which starts at 11:30 a.m., is open to the public at no cost, and will focus on West Virginia’s growing aviation industry. Attendees are required to register 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 Sky’s the Limit EDTalk will feature two distinguished speakers: 2023 West Virginia Teacher of the Year Amber Nichols and Marshall University’s Chief Aviation Officer – and flight school namesake – Bill Noe. Noe will discuss the importance of education in aviation, as well as his contributions to the Bill Noe Flight School. Nichols will speak about the challenges and rewards she’s encountered during her 21-year career as a kindergarten teacher in the Mountain State. 

As a nonprofit advocacy group, the Education Alliance believes in a “quality education for all West Virginia children.” The group works as a liaison between school systems and industries to help create pathways for students to develop and pursue their interests. 

“We have to have students and parents and families engaged and interested, and aware, frankly, of these kinds of opportunities,” Amelia Courts, president and CEO of the Education Alliance said. “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.”

As one of the most consistently-growing industries in the nation, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) anticipates passenger-growth aboard domestic flights to increase by nearly 5% each year for the next 20 years. 

The opportunity to pursue a career as a pilot while remaining in West Virginia was an ideal fit for current Marshall University student Emma Carr, who said, “I don’t even know how to put into words how cool it is.”

“I don’t think anybody truly understands how you feel when you’re flying,” Carr added. “You can go anywhere in the world and come right back. Just experiencing different things that you’ve never thought you could – that’s an amazing feeling.” 

However, it is not just a potential career as a pilot that the Education Alliance hopes to expose West Virginia’s students to; the aviation industry provides untold opportunities for technical careers as well. This is another point which is well taken by Courts.

“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.”

“What we’re seeing right now is a double win,” Courts added. “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. But we also want to make sure that we have a strong aviation network and workforce.”Business, education, and community leaders are invited to register to attend the Sky’s the Limit EDTalk, where, according to Courts, “Attendees will engage in rich discussion about how education and innovation can truly empower students for a lifetime of success here in the Mountain State.”  

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