CBU and Alaska Airlines sign pilot development program to support minority students

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (Dec. 7, 2023) – California Baptist University and Alaska Airlines signed an agreement on Nov. 20 to formalize True North, a program that will support minority aviation students at CBU. Students can receive up to $50,000 in flight training tuition support and a direct path to becoming a first officer for Alaska upon graduation. CBU is the first True North partner on the West Coast.

“The CBU and Alaska Airlines partnership represents a true collaboration of shared values, with both organizations committed to helping break down economic and professional development barriers that racial and ethnic minority groups may face,” said Dr. Charles D. Sands, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “This partnership will provide students from diverse backgrounds with a career path, financial support for aviation training and the experience of working closely with Alaska’s team.”

The True North program was launched by Alaska in 2021 as a commitment to increase diversity among Alaska airline pilots. According to a 2020 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report, only 3.4% of airline pilots, aircraft mechanics, aerospace engineers and flight attendants were Black, 2.2% Asian and 5% Hispanic or Latino.

In the CBU aviation science program, 41% of students identify as from a minority group. Among all aviation science students, 85-90% plan on becoming pilots, where the remaining 10-15% intend on pursuing careers in airport management and operations. Selection for Alaska’s True North program will include screening by CBU’s faculty to identify students for the program. Once a student successfully earns their instrument rating through CBU, it is expected that Alaska will interview and select students to receive tuition assistance along with conditional offers of employment. Upon graduation and completion of airline transport pilot requirements, students in the program will commit to being employed with Alaska or Horizon for a combined total of five years.  

“True North was the first-of-its-kind pilot development program in the airline industry aimed at hiring racial and ethnic minority pilots and creating the fastest path to fly for Alaska Airlines,” said captain Ronald Limes, pilot outreach program director for Alaska Airlines. “Partnering with CBU — who has a strong reputation in the industry for its aviation science program — is just one way Alaska is working to increase the company’s racial diversity at all levels.”

The True North program signing comes just one month after CBU received a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education for the launch of a new program aimed at improving higher education outcomes for Hispanic and low-income students. The university is committed to continuing to develop relationships and secure opportunities that support the diverse student population it serves.

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