Global Partnerships in Aviation Education

In Steve's Writings, Professional by Steve Sliwa


Global Partnerships in Aviation Education

International Aviation Symposium
to Commemorate the 44th Anniversary of Hankuk Aviation University
October 25, 1996
Steven M. Sliwa, Ph. D.
PresidentEmbry-Riddle Aeronautical University


Thank you for that introduction. It is my pleasure to be here today at the International Aviation Symposium in commemoration of the 44th Anniversary of Hankuk Aviation University. My talk today is entitled, “Global Partnerships in Aviation Higher Education”. I’m going to be talking about this in a general sense. I will be talking about the need for global aviation and issues in the higher education arena; the need for aviation higher education in general; challenges in aviation higher education; the value of partnerships in the global environment; partnerships between industry, government and education; partnerships between levels of education; partnerships between different higher education institutions; and partnerships between international higher education activities.

Although I will be talking about global aviation higher education in a generic sense, because of Embry-Riddle’s role I will be quoting examples from the University as much as possible. I’m particularly pleased to be able to give this presentation today. One reason is that, although ninety-seven different nations have students at Embry-Riddle’s home campus, our largest segment today is from Korea, and we are looking forward to building our partnerships and relationships in Korea as a way for us to grow in the future and for aviation to grow.

Need for Global Aviation and Issues in Higher Education

Aviation is truly a global business. The number one contributor to the United States balance of trade component in the economy is the Aviation and Aerospace segment. Additionally, although the United States is the single largest aviation market, the growth outside of the country is even greater. In fact, Aviation and Aerospace markets in the United States have been somewhat depressed over the last few years, while the growth throughout the world has been significantly greater.

In the long term, civilian aviation is predicted to be a major hot bed of activity growth, not only for the United States but worldwide. One of the key reasons for this is that economists are naturally predicting the world economy will grow. The fastest growth will be that in developing nations. The way that growth occurs is through the trade of goods and services. Trade of goods would be products which are transported from one country to another, and aviation is one of the key ways that products will be shipped to various nations. Although there is certainly an opportunity for railroad, ships and trucks, many nations, especially the developing ones, don’t have the ports or facilities that can be rapidly utilized or the convenience of having airports as a central hub for the import of goods. Furthermore, the distribution in many nations will be limited if there is not an aviation infrastructure to help distribute the goods.

It is interesting that, in the last five years, the growth of trade via aviation has grown so that currently the number one dollar value of trade between countries, international trade, is done through aviation. Services and valuable people with technical know how and expertise have to be transported and put into position, and clearly that needs to be done by aviation. It has to be by aviation because of the speed required; the people are so valuable that they have to be there quickly. So, aviation will be a key component if the world economy is going to achieve the growth rates the economists are predicting over the next ten or twenty years. No longer will we be able to concentrate just on our home nation. The key growth areas, the double digit growth rates, will be in serving other nations. So, global issues and considerations are very important to aviation.

Need for Aviation Higher Education

Aviation needs higher education. The aviation infrastructure includes a physical infrastructure; airports, air traffic control, airplanes, and facilities. But the human infrastructure is just as important. In fact, many times it is the limiting resource that prevents achieving the goals required. The human infrastructure includes the technical skills which could be flying, maintaining, or air traffic control. This also includes the management skills, the ones that would help operate these enterprises on the ground or in the air in the most cost effective and safest way and in the way which provides the most possible growth.

One of the big challenges we face is that aviation is very enticing and appealing to many people. In the United States some people who love aviation start airlines and aviation businesses principally for the fun of it. Unfortunately, when businesses are run for fun, rather than with the required business sense, they frequently fail or do not achieve their objectives. I also make the observation that many nations do not feel that they are a nation unless they have an airline. So, developing nations all want to have an airline, many of whom create an airline and then manage it in a manner which loses money. That’s a challenge for the entire system and the entire network. Anytime the airline system is allowed to operate ineffectively and inefficiently and members of the industry are permitted to continue to operate at a deficit, this will put a drain on all of us. So, aviation higher education is needed not only to provide the basic human infrastructure required to run and operate airlines, it is also there to help insure whatever operations do exist are performed on a business basis.

The Challenges in Aviation Higher Education

Now let’s discuss the challenges to those of us who pursue higher education for the aviation industry. Just as the aviation industry itself has a high capital cost for its infrastructure, so does aviation higher education. It is very expensive to build the infrastructure in terms of study facilities and equipment, as well as aircraft or air traffic control requirements, in order to provide the technical skills needed in this very valuable segment. At the same time, industry is changing and so we need to learn how to provide faster and more focused delivery of our education. Just like business enterprises, we have to find ways to be more productive and more effective in providing education. Typically, this involves not only increasing our capital investment, but also training our employees, faculty, and staff, so that we can be better at what we do.

Another challenge which we have is how to provide life-long learning opportunities. Higher education frequently is viewed as focussing strictly on the college age student (the eighteen to twenty-five year old student). However, if we are really doing our job, we should be providing education for students whenever they need it. It could be as they receive various promotions and their career develops, but whenever they need it, we should be providing the appropriate education and flight training. Sometimes I refer to this as “just in time education”. Just like there is just in time manufacturing where all the parts arrive when the assembly is required, our education and training should arrive and be helpful to the employee throughout every phase of his or her career. In the aviation sector, equipment changes all the time. As a result, people are constantly going through training and retraining. One valuable lesson we have learned at Embry-Riddle is that by working with our military we have been able to document that those employees who have education are cheaper to train than those who don’t. And that makes sense, because the purpose of education is to learn how to learn. If by providing education our employees acquire a certain capability so they can teach themselves, it will be that much easier when new equipment comes online or new capabilities are required. You can give employees the manual’s, give them a shortened training course, or give them some capability to train themselves. A well educated workforce will be able to train themselves more effectively at a cheaper cost than those who aren’t. So, education is valuable to the business enterprise in terms of achieving its objectives of having the best qualified and most adaptive and productive workforce.

One of the challenges which aviation higher education has is that, although the aviation sector has grown significantly during the past seventy years, it has done so with lots of cycles and ups and downs. Those cycles cause problems for aviation higher education just like they do for the industry itself. It is hard to attract students to the programs and it’s also hard to attract support for the programs during the down cycles. So, one of the challenges we have is how to even out the enrollments and even out the funding sources during times when the economy is weak or when the airline industry, aviation industry, or aerospace industry is viewed to be weak. Because of the expense of aviation higher education, it’s hard to expect students to totally self fund themselves. It is a very expensive program, and it requires industry support in order to make sure that the quality of training education is at the highest level possible.

Another challenge which aviation higher education has is that, because of the global nature of aviation, there are people from many cultures and many countries who are participating. So, one of our challenges is how to make sure our students can adapt to these different cultures, learn to work together and negotiate with other cultures, learn how to build the best possible teamwork, and develop an effective plan for cooperation even though it represents a different culture.

Finally, aviation is different than other business because of the extreme importance of safety. Safety can never be minimized, and it needs to be carried through all parts of the operation, be it management, be it flying, or be it maintenance. Safety has to predominate all discussions and that is different than many other industries.

Value of Partnerships in the Global Environment

In general, business enterprises have found over the last couple of decades that strategic alliances, joint ventures, partnerships,and other types of association can be very effective. So, these kinds of partnerships (I’ll use the term partnership to mean all kinds of relationships) help companies be faster, be more effective, and focus on the part that they are good at, while also allowing their team partners to focus on their strengths. Partnerships allow you to develop business enterprises and respond to customer needs in a faster way. They help you share the requirements for capital. As a result of partnerships, we can achieve a greater success with our business enterprises. In higher education, partnerships with various organizations can help find jobs for your students and ensure that your educational programs are pertinent, because your partners are helping you design your curriculum. Partners can also help with the globalization issues as you learn to share resources.

Partnership Between Government/Industry/Education

Just as partnerships are very important and critical in the business world, they are very important in aviation higher education as well. In my view, one of the most important partnerships is the trade between sectors, the partnerships between industry, government, and education. As you build these partnerships you need to look for a way for them to be successful by creating a win-win opportunity for each of the participants. We recently built a new high technology engineering facility on our two residential campuses which are linked with video conferencing and computer linkages. We did this through a combination of government support, corporate donations, and our own investment. Now, each one of those segments, the government, our corporate supporters, and the university itself, view this as a major project which is a success for all of us. There is research being performed for the government which was not possible before, and there are new students with new capabilities who are entering the market place (some of whom are going into the government sector). They are more skilled today then even before. Corporations have noticed that the quality of our graduates and the quality of our research programs supporting them have gone up significantly since participating with us in this project. This has helped Embry-Riddle achieve national acclaim for its Engineering Programs.

Another example of a partnership between these sectors includes one which Embry-Riddle established with FlightSafety International, Inc., the largest training services corporation in the world. We are building a new flight simulation center on our Daytona Beach Campus. It will have two new level D simulators, a Boeing 737 and a Beech 1900. These are the most advanced simulators currently available, and they will be installed next year. Together with FlightSafety International, we will build a program which will enable all of our students to achieve airline quality flight training during the course of their undergraduate education. It will also provide us with a unique opportunity to market other parties around the world as we try to develop joint programs. As an example of how these joint programs will work, we will be able to leverage our “English as a second language” training programs, as well as our air traffic control, engineering, and meteorology programs. They will all be linked together and available to partner with the simulation center being built with FlightSafety.

Embry-Riddle has another interesting partnership which was recently established with IBM, one of the major computer manufacturers in the United States. We will be the beta test site for new distance learning developments which IBM will propose for its higher education customers throughout the world. Embry-Riddle benefits by gaining access to these technologies faster and more cost effectively, while IBM benefits by partnering with a focused institution, which has two campuses and other partnerships throughout the world. We will be able to try out new ideas and rapidly provide feedback so that IBM can provide the best possible offerings for its customers. It’s a win-win deal!

Sometimes partnerships build on top of partnerships. For example, as a result of our IBM and our FlightSafety International partnerships, we are now working on developing special honors programs in flight training in which our students can achieve their undergraduate education at the same time they are learning the specialized methods and capabilities of a particular airline. The airline would benefit by observing these students for up to two or three years before making the final hiring decision. They would be able to guide the development of the student so they learn the procedures and processes required for a particular airline. Additionally, they will be able to evaluate them in a variety of stressful situations to insure they acquire the best possible work force. Embry-Riddle benefits by having partners who will seek the best possible students and provide them with job opportunities sooner rather than later, as well as possibly absorbing some of the expense of specialized training.

An example of an interesting partnership between Embry-Riddle and multiple governments, industry and education, involves air traffic control. The Republic of China has been trying to upgrade its air traffic control systems. There are companies in the United States that want to receive landing rights and over-flight privileges. They have been asked to support sending classes of students to Embry-Riddle to practice their aviation english and improve their air traffic control skills. So, for the past year, Embry-Riddle has been conducting training for air traffic controllers from China, and this has been sponsored by United States companies.

Partnerships Between Levels of Education

Another type of partnerships are ones between levels of education. In the United States we have been experimenting with partnerships with high schools and junior high schools to make sure students are fully prepared to matriculate at Embry-Riddle. We have developed, “Articulation Agreements” in which the students will spend their last two years of high school taking structural courses, perhaps spend two years at a community college or other college and then two years at Embry-Riddle. This provides a natural flow and a program in which all the curriculums are coordinated in advance.

Partnerships Between Higher Education Institutions

Another partnership which is interesting for aviation higher education is between colleges. For example, in the state of Florida in the United States, several colleges have come together and are sharing courses. Even though we compete for students, we still agree that the most cost effective way to deliver certain courses is to share the course delivery using video conferencing and distance education techniques which reduce the cost for the individual schools and improve the quality for our students. Yet another example of a partnership with a college in the United States is one in which we are currently working on computer classes with another private university, Carnegie Mellon University Software Engineering Institute. We teach for each other and help increase the quality of the courses while reducing the costs.

Partnerships Between International Higher Education Activities

Another form of partnership in aviation higher education is one between international higher education institutions. For example, Embry-Riddle has a partnership with the National Civil Aviation Training Organization (NCATO), which is a civil aviation college.

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