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GRAND FORKS -- A new agreement between the University of North Dakota and United Airlines will give aviation students the chance to have a direct pipeline to jobs with one of the world’s largest airliners.

The UND Career Pathway Program with United Airlines gives aviation students the chance to follow defined steps to become United Airlines pilots, as long as they meet eligibility requirements at the university and through the airline.

Students who graduate from UND’s aviation school will be required to stay for a period of time after they graduate for a commitment to the school before they can move on to one of United’s regional partners, Capt. Mike McCasky, managing director of flight training at United Airlines, said Monday.

“UND is an incredible resource for us in the industry, an industry leader in academics and training,” he said.

Each participating United Express partner has its own CPP requirements that pilots would have to meet to be considered for job openings with United Airlines. CPP pilots who continue to meet program criteria at the regional level eventually would be placed in United Airlines’ first available new hire class.

United Express, United’s regional branch, partners include CommutAir, Mesa Air, Air Wisconsin and ExpressJet Airlines.

The agreement also hopes to address the continued need for new pilots and will help create an additional pipeline for United pilots.

“We hope that it has an impact on our supply challenges,” McCasky said. “We’re looking at it as, United we need to hire somewhere between 500 and 700 pilots a year for the foreseeable future and this is one tool that we have now to help us manage that.”

James Higgins, chair of the aviation department, said he believes partnerships like this may attract more students to UND. Recent graduating classes at the school have been around 200 students, but Higgins said incoming classes have started to increase in size, noting UND already attracts “high-quality students.”

“I certainly think things like this will attract more people,” he said. “We also want to continue to attract higher and higher quality students.”

Once a UND student is accepted into the program, no further structured interview is required with United. As long as the company is hiring pilots, UND students, who remain eligible, would be offered conditional employment with the airline.

The program is set to begin this fall.

Applicants must be full-time students with at least two semesters in UND’s Professional Flight Program. They also are required to have a commercial pilot certificate and instrument rating. Additionally, they must maintain a 3.0 grade-point average in Professional Flight Program coursework.

UND students also must receive a written recommendation for the program from an aviation department faculty member.

Frank Meredith, an aviation student, said it’s good to see relationships between airlines like United and universities.

“I think it’s huge for the school,” he said. “It’s something that’s been talked about for a long time, the relationship between the major airlines and universities like this. So, it’s good to see that starting.”

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