When it comes to Dodge City Community College (DCCC)'s helicopter pilot training program, graduates are in high demand.
According to the college's Vice President of Community & Industry Relations Anthony Lyons, a large number of jobs for graduates of the program is foreseeable for the next 10 years.
“We will have no unemployed graduates for the foreseeable future,” Lyons said.
Why is this the case? Lyons says the answer is simple.
“Because we are the best helicopter training school in the world,” he said.
DCCC's helicopter pilot training program currently enrolls approximately 120 students throughout its locations, including Dodge City, Salina, Utah and Arizona. Expansion is also being planned to Provo, Utah, and Camarillo, Calif. The program is arranged through a partnership with Universal Helicopters.
Where are graduates going? This fall DCCC sent five pilots to a tour company in Alaska. Others have gone on to fly tours in Hawaii, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas and the Gulf of Mexico. Though the two-year program costs between $100,000 and $150,000 to complete, salaries are lucrative, starting at around $60,000 with the opportunity to double the amount depending on how often a pilot chooses to fly.
The helicopter program results in an associate's of applied science degree. Students then continue on to work on a bachelor's degree at Kansas State University or Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Pilots are often placed before graduation. A student must achieve 1,000 flight hours and fly for the college as an instructor pilot. Come graduation, they can choose between continuing as an instructor or moving on to something else.
“The aviation companies call us first,” Lyons said.
“We can't train pilots fast enough,” he added.
Lyons said the college keeps up with the demands of helicopter pilots in the real world. Over-water navigation has been added to the program, as has flying with night vision goggles.
“We want our pilots to be the most competitive literally in the world,” Lyons said.
Next for the program, DCCC is setting its sights across the ocean to Turkey. There is a need for civilians to cross the Bosphorus Strait and DCCC is exploring the possibility of filling that demand.
There are other programs at DCCC whose graduates are in high demand. Graduates of the electrical power technician program start out making about the same salary as the helicopter pilots. Despite even this, the helicopter program stands in a league of its own.
“You'd probably be hard-pressed to find another program that pays this well with 100 percent employment,” Lyons said.