Aviation and Aerospace is trending among Oklahoma students, and the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission (OAC) has emphatically been a driving force of those trends. Through summer camp programs and primary through secondary aviation education curriculum across the state, the Commission has boosted that interest through their aviation and aerospace education grant program.
Last year, 25 organizations were awarded Aerospace and Aviation Education Program grants or contracts totaling over $270,000 from OAC. The record amount of funds were used to educate more school-aged children in Oklahoma to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers, particularly those in aerospace and aviation.
Director of Aeronautics Vic Bird said aerospace is now one of the state’s top two industry ecosystems and when all direct, indirect, and induced impacts are considered, there are almost 240,400 jobs that are supported by or benefit from aviation and aerospace.
With the release of a two-year study on the Economic Impact of Aviation & Aerospace and Oklahoma, Bird feels confident that the program is working. “We know that workforce in the aviation and aerospace industry is at critical levels and we need young people to explore careers not only in engineering, but also in sheet metal fabrication and mechanics. The aviation and aerospace industry in Oklahoma support $43.7 Billion in annual statewide economic activity, and we must prepare our young people to be part of that workforce, directing them into STEM, as well as encouraging them to become pilots.”
The program, which has been awarding aviation education grants for over 30 years, is part of the OAC mission to encourage and promote aviation throughout the state of Oklahoma.
“This year’s program received 45 applications by the May 31 deadline. Of those, 17 were first time applicants,” said Adam Fox, aviation program manager and aviation education coordinator for the Commission.
Recognized nationally as having one of the most robust aviation education programs among state aviation agencies, OAC has provided over $2M in education funding within the last 10 years alone.
“This was the agency’s biggest year in terms of applicants total program costs at $3.4M. Schools and organizations are asking OAC to fund $593K of those costs this year with an anticipated reach of 81,000 students. We are always excited to see new applicants. The Commission welcomed new programs such the Girl Scouts of America, Cache Public Schools, Atoka Public Schools, Oklahoma Air Force Association, McAlester High School, Boy Scouts of America Arbuckle Area Council, and several more,” Fox said. In order for a program to be eligible for an aviation education grant or contract, it must meet certain requirements in the Oklahoma Administrative Code. Most importantly, the program must demonstrate that its curriculum is geared toward aviation and aerospace. Applicants must provide receipts and are only reimbursed for those items outlined in the application for their program. The May 31st deadline has passed for the year, but future applicants are encouraged to explore the Commission website at oac.ok.gov/aviation-education/aviation-education-grant-program.