- Southwest Airlines is teaming up with four universities to bring aspiring pilots into its ranks through a new program called Destination 225°.
- The program offers four paths. Future pilots who choose the University Pathway will be eligible to receive transition training from one of four institutions: Arizona State University, Southeastern Oklahoma State University, University of Nebraska Omaha and the University of Oklahoma.
- The program comes as more colleges and universities tap into new revenue streams by partnering with companies to offer employee training.
Aviation is facing a looming shortage of skilled workers. By 2026, the International Civil Aviation Organization predicts the need for 480,000 new aircraft technicians and 350,000 pilots worldwide. And as with several other industries, there aren't enough training pathways to meet that demand.
That has prompted airlines to partner with colleges to build their own worker pipelines or provide other training options. Delta Air Lines made such a move last summer when it teamed up with eight institutions including Auburn University, the University of North Dakota and Western Michigan University to recruit and train future pilots.
Other employers appear to favor similar methods of skills training. The Hartford, a financial services company, created an apprenticeship-style arrangement that connects students at community colleges with on-the-job training, classroom learning, mentorship opportunities and, potentially, a future job.
Wisconsin Oven, an industrial oven manufacturer, launched a similar partnership with Gateway Technical College to offer paid training and tuition to students in order to create its own talent pipeline. The decision came as a reminder that, in the current labor market, it behooves employers to offer training to possibly under-qualified individuals who may make good workers.
Mentoring is often a hallmark of such programs. More than three-quarters of Americans said they think mentors are important, although only 37% reported having one in a recent survey from Olivet Nazarene University. On-the-job training could be the preferred mode of learning new skills for jobs involving technology, according to a survey from Gallup and Northeastern University.
Colleges are taking note by building out their own workforce development arms. Arizona State, one of Southwest's partners, earlier this year launched a for-profit venture to help employers provide their workers with a college education. Likewise, the nonprofit National University System recently rolled out a unit dedicated to workforce development in the banking, health care, public safety and education fields.