15:57 PM

Local high school students get hands-on experience through new internship program

(July 21, 2016) Clearwater High School junior Aaron Terry loves all things aviation and knows he wants to work in the airport or airline industry one day. 

His time at Tampa International Airport this summer is giving him a better idea of what exactly that might entail.

“It actually surprises me how many different jobs there are in the field,” Terry said. “This experience definitely prepares you for what you’ll be doing in the real world of aviation.”

Terry is one of six area high school juniors and seniors currently getting a hands-on, in-depth experiences in airport management as part of a new internship program partnership between the Tampa Bay Regional Aeronautics Academy and Tampa International Airport.

The six-week summer internship program selected students from Pasco, Hillsborough and Pinellas county schools to learn all aspects of running a major commercial airport, as well as general aviation airports. The program focuses on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) learning and includes an hour and a half of classroom study each day with an instructor, followed by three hours of hands-on internship in various departments at TPA.

“We’re excited to have such a groundbreaking educational program here at Tampa International Airport, helping the next generation of aviation professionals get a head start in the industry,” Tampa International Airport CEO Joe Lopano. “Seeing first-hand how we operate the airfield, manage concessions, handle our guests and passengers and ensure safety at a large airport is something we hope these students will take with them as they pursue their interests in college and beyond.”

The three female and three male students, all with an interest in future aviation careers, have had the opportunity to ride along on airfield inspections, spend time in fleet maintenance, attend airport operations meetings, learn about security procedures and customer service, visit the air traffic control tower and more.

“I even got to page someone from the AOC,” said Robinson senior Jordan McDaniel (pictured), who wants to be an air traffic controller one day. “It’s cool to see all the different things they do and control from the Center.”

As the students have gotten more comfortable in the airport environment, they’ve been able to identify the departments that interest them most. Some enjoy general aviation, some like airport management and others hope to be pilots or engineers.

“It’s one thing for them to learn about airport policies and procedures in the classroom, but for them to be able to go out and connect it to real-world experiences at an airport is invaluable,” said Brian Sawyer, Aviation Academy manager and instructor.

After successfully completing the internship, which ends Aug. 2, the students will receive college credits through Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. The students also have the option to take an (AAAE) certification exam to earn an industry credential.

“The Tampa Bay Regional Aeronautics Academy answers the challenge to build a STEM-proficient workforce and a pipeline in Tampa Bay for aeronautics education and industry,” said Pasco Schools Superintendent Kurt Browning.  “This is a true partnership between our three school districts, Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, and Tampa International Airport to prepare students for high-skill, high-wage employment in the field of aviation.”

The program took nearly two years to create and was made possible with the help of former Speaker of the House Will Weatherford, Speaker Designate Rep. Richard Corcoran, Senator John Legg, and Rep. Chris Latvala, whom all worked to secure the grant funding for the program under Pasco County Schools.

Terry said he only has one gripe about the internship.

“I wish it were longer,” he said. “I love being here.”