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SkyWest Airlines and Westminster College are teaming up to help train the airline's future pilots.

The college recently announced that it has entered into a partnership with the St. George-based airline that will bring together students from Westminster's Aviation Studies program with SkyWest captains, with the goal of eventually helping grudates get hired as SkyWest first officers.

"This new partnership will provide our students with what for them could potentially be a great career opportunity," said Gerry Fairbairn, chairman of the Westminster's Aviation Studies division.

Fairbairn explained that students who have earned their flight operations degree and have been hired as flight instructors for the college will be able to participate in the SkyWest Pilot Cadet Program. "They will be mentored individually by SkyWest captains and will have a guaranteed interview with the airline after their minimum [pilot and flight-hour] qualifications are met."

SkyWest's Director of Flight Operations Shane Losee described the pilot cadet program as an "enhanced internship.

"This program will allow us to have input into the college's curriculum" to enhance training opportunities for students and help SkyWest better meet its own needs, he said.

Losee said earlier this year SkyWest set up a similar program at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, which has campuses in Prescott, Ariz., and Daytona Beach, Fla. "And we also are looking to partner with a few other colleges and universities."

Fairbairn said Westminster graduates about 20 students a year from its Aviation Studies program with pilot degrees. He said approximately eight of those students are hired as flight instructors for the college with the others hired on at other flight schools. "And we're talking with SkyWest about the possibility of expanding the program to include those flight instructors hired at those other flight schools."

Brooke Lawrence, a 2012 Westminter alumna and current certified flight instructor, hopes eventually to become an airline pilot.

"The SkyWest Pilot Cadet Program sounds like a great opportunity," she said in a statement, released by Westminster. "It gives students a starting point and helps them prepare for what the airline interviews are going to be like . . . and it will be awesome to have someone who is part of the industry that we can ask question of."

Fairbairn said currently about half of the pilots now flying for the nation's airlines are over 50-years-old and are facing a mandatory retirement age of 65. So it is understandable, he said, that airlines are now looking toward their future pilot needs and establishing programs and new initiatives that will help them fill their hiring pipeline with qualified candidates.

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