Flying Classroom Helping Opa-Locka Residents With Workforce Training

Barrington Irving

Barrington Irving outlines plans for a new aviation technical training center at Miami-Opa Locka Executive Airport.

Credit: Bill Carey

In a pursuit of addressing shortages in the aviation workforce and increasing local employment, the City of Opa-Locka, Florida, and the Barrington Irving Technical Training School (BITTS) announced their partnership to launch an aviation workforce development program for residents.

The Flying Classroom, a BITTS program for K-12 students, will serve its first class of adults through an eight-week course to receive more than 140 hr. of aviation technical training to develop job-ready skills upon completion of the program.

According to Opa-Locka Interim City Manager Darvin Williams, the city is excited to work with BITTS to meet the needs of the local aviation industry and the city simultaneously.

“As the city manager, it is my responsibility and duty to increase and ensure the welfare and well-being of the residents of the city of Opa-Locka,” Williams told Aviation Week. “What we put in the development agreement is language that now requires these big developments coming into the city to hire, or attempt to hire, residents of the City of Opa-Locka.”

The new program is currently partnering with multiple aviation companies to secure employment upon completion of the course, including Atlantic Aviation, Bombardier, Signature Flight Support, Landing Gear Technologies and Xtreme Aviation.

According to Irving, the program will include certifications for a wide array of applications throughout private and commercial aviation. Additionally, NC-3 certifications will be provided via a partnership with Snap-On.

Williams believes program participants will serve as inspirations for other local residents to make and achieve long-term career goals.

“What we’re looking to achieve is to first make an impact visually,” Williams says. “We know our average household income is $35,000 a year. That’s household income. So, to be able to have one person that could pull down a $65,000 a year job, or even to know someone that does have a $65,000 a year job or greater, it expands the visualization of what can be.”

Irving spoke to Aviation Week about how the Flying Classroom inspired the adult program.

“We basically started to create content to bring to life math and science in school districts across the country, as well as here at home,” he says. “Opa-Locka is where we test, build, incubate, create and execute projects. The past several years, industry has been requesting, and in some cases, begging me to basically help address recruitment challenges, technical skill challenges and so forth.”

According to Irving, the program will also provide training to those reentering the workforce after leaving the corrections systems.

“Let’s be honest. Typically, you come out of the system, the typical type of job available for you is maybe your cook at a restaurant somewhere or something like that, and there’s nothing wrong with that,” he says. “But how can we tap into this population of individuals who, yes, they may have made a mistake or got caught up in something they shouldn’t have. They’ve paid their debt to society, they come out, they actually want to do something, but there isn’t true infrastructure for them to proceed.”

In addition to this, Irving and Williams revealed the planned use of a former police station as a training facility.

“What better thing to do with this site than have the city provide it as a training ground for its residents and its greater community to get access to these jobs,” Williams says. “I foresee, as we continue to partner together on this and other projects, you’ll see government coming in to support, because that is a goal of a good government—to take the resources that they take from the community as a collective and achieve for them individually what they can’t do for themselves.”

Jeremy Kariuki

Jeremy Kariuki is Associate Editor for Business Aviation, based in Atlanta. Before joining Aviation Week in April 2023, Jeremy served as a writer for FLYING Magazine, FreightWaves and the Center for Sustainable Journalism.