High school students participating in the Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) will have the chance to earn college credit thanks to a new partnership with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Gaetz Aerospace Institute.

The Gaetz Aerospace Institute – a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) dual-enrolment education program – offers tuition-free college credits and hands-on experience in university level courses focusing on growing industries including aviation, unmanned systems, aerospace, engineering, computers and business.

To begin with, the Institute will provide dual-enrolment college credit coursework in Florida at high schools where the Air Force branch of the JROTC has a unit, but the goal is to expand the programme nationwide and eventually to Air Force JROTC units around the world.

There are 73 Air Force JROTC programs in high schools across Florida, and ten schools in nine different school districts will take part in the pilot programme for the fall 2017-2018 semester: Jefferson High School, Hillsborough County; Vero Beach High School, Indian River County; Ocoee High School, Orange County; Timber Creek High School, Orange County; Osceola High School, Osceola County; Lake Worth High School, Palm Beach County; Treasure Coast High School, St. Lucie County; Lake Brantley High School, Seminole County; Eustis High School, Lake County and Northeast High School, Broward County.

The Gaetz Aerospace Institute college-level courses being offered as part of the pilot programme include Principles of Aeronautical Science, worth three Credits; Private Pilot Operations, worth five Credits; Unmanned Aircraft Systems, worth three Credits; Unmanned Aircraft Systems Security, worth three Credits; and Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operation and Cross-Country Data Entry, worth three Credits.

“Air Force JROTC is excited about the opportunity to establish an education partnership with Embry Riddle,” said Michael Wetzel, Academic Credit Liaison and DE Safety Representative with the U.S. Air Force’s Holm Center Academic Affairs Directorate. “Both military and commercial aviation are experiencing a shortage of young qualified pilots and unmanned aircraft vehicle (UAV) operators. This is an opportunity to attract Air Force JROTC cadets to the field of aviation through Embry-Riddle’s ground school and small UAS certification programs, with the hope of getting high school cadets interested in an aviation career while becoming young leaders in their communities and for our country.”

“Our hope is to expand our program into schools/school districts nationwide once we achieve success in Florida,” explained Colleen Walsh-Conklin, Executive Director of the Gaetz Aerospace Institute at Embry Riddle. “Because many of the instructors working with high school Air Force JROTC units already come with the qualifications and requirements to teach our coursework as adjunct professors, the program will have a fast start in Florida with the potential to grow quickly across the country.”