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Avionics students benefit amid airline worker shortage

Posted at 10:51 AM, Nov 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-11 11:51:05-05

WACO, Texas — A TSTC Avionics student is showing just how far he’ll go for his education. To get to class, Penn Nyagaka commutes from Arlington — by plane.

“The TSA employee is like, 'wait a minute didn’t you just come here?' I’m like, yeah, I just came here about an hour ago and I’m going to leave five hours later,” said Nyagaka.

Nyagaka can fly for free because, on top of his studies, he also works a full-time job in baggage claim at DFW airport.

Nyagaka’s instructor, Martin Seagraves, said he was surprised and impressed when he heard about his student’s commute. He also says that Nyagaka’s hard work and determination are coming at the perfect time.

“I’ve got employers just knocking at the door all the time. All right, when are your students going to graduate?” says Seagraves. “We need technicians. We need people now.”

According to Boeing’s 2020 Pilot and Technician Outlook, airlines are facing a shortage in several departments.

If air traffic returns to 2019 levels, the industry will need to hire 763,000 new pilots, 739,000 new maintenance technicians and 903,000 new cabin crew members by 2040.

A strong contributing factor in the shortage is the high rate of resignations and projected retirements. The pandemic also caused fewer aviation students to enroll, which meant fewer new workers in the pipeline.

“It’s like if I were to apply for ivy league schools and there’s no one at the schools and I’m the only one applying," said Nyagaka. "It’s like, everyone wants to take me.”

TSTC’s avionics students are trained to repair and maintain the systems that are used for communication and navigation on an airplane.

Seagraves says he’s never seen such competition between employers trying to hire graduates.

“I’ve got two or three local employers literally competing for my graduates right now and I’ve never seen that. And they’re all disappointed that they can’t have Penn because he’s going back to Arlington,” said Seagraves.

For Penn Nyagaka, the current market makes him hopeful that his hard work will pay off. He hopes to land a job at DFW working in the avionics department, and eventually go back to school to study electronics engineering.

“Just watching those planes come in, hearing the towers talk to them, I mean it sounds kind of nerdy, but I just really enjoy all of it," said Nyagaka.