DENISON — In an economy where good-paying jobs with security and long career prospects seem few and far between, a new North Texas school is offering students a fast track to just that kind of career opportunity.
Link Simulation and Training, an Arlington-based defense and aerospace contractor, has opened an air traffic controller training academy at the North Texas Regional Airport outside Denison.
Link officials say that in just 10 months of classroom and hands-on training, they can prepare students to meet Federal Aviation Administration standards for entry-level controller jobs at beginning salaries of about $33,000 a year in a profession where the average annual pay is $122,000.
Facing a wave of retirements, the FAA expects to hire 17,000 controllers over the next decade to keep the nation's air travel system flowing.
The bulk of the FAA's new hires come from two- and four-year college programs, with only classroom and some simulator instruction. The FAA then provides more-intensive simulator and control tower training.
Link officials say they saw an opening for the company, which specializes in putting together military aviation training programs, to offer a vocational school approach that would get students trained and into a paying job much faster.
"I think this program is heads above any other program," said Dale Raatz, director of the Link academy.
"The kids are immersed in it eight hours a day, five days a week. In a college environment you're not immersed in it."
Raatz is an FAA-certified air traffic controller and trainer recruited by Link from the University of North Dakota to run the program.
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