KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Western Michigan University has announced it’s partnering with SkyWest Airlines to provide two new programs for aviation students.

The partnership will allow students to join SkyWest’s Pilot Pathway Program and AMT Pathway Program.

With the Pilot Pathway Program, students are eligible to receive up to $15,000 in tuition reimbursement. Students will also be mentored by SkyWest pilots, have enhanced company seniority and have a guaranteed interview to become a first officer.

The AMT Pathway Program will provide students with mentoring from mechanics, enhanced company seniority and up to $4,500 in educational assistance. Students will also be guaranteed an interview to become an A&P mechanic.

“We are excited for this elite partnership with Western Michigan University and the additional benefits it provides to their students who join our Pilot and AMT Pathway Programs,” Kari Tate, SkyWest managing director of people, said in a press release. “Western Michigan University offers great training and education to their students, and we look forward to welcoming even more of them to SkyWest in the future.”

Megan Carlson, a junior who is studying to become a pilot, says career programs are very beneficial for helping students get their start in aviation.  

“It was actually one of my big drives to come to Western because of these partners with United, Delta, and now SkyWest as well. It offers many opportunities for these students, and it sets up your career while you’re still in college,” Carlson said.

Raymond Thompson, the dean of the college, says demand remains very strong for pilots and maintenance technicians. Many were furloughed or retired during the height of the pandemic. The demand for flights has also recovered more quickly than some industry analysts expected.  

“The technician shortage will have a greater impact but we’re about a year and a half away to really start seeing that kick in and we’ll end up with a situation of perhaps having enough pilots but not enough airplanes,” Thompson said.

Learn more about WMU’s aviation program on the university’s website.