Elizabeth City State University this week announced a new partnership with the United Airlines Aviate pilot recruitment program to prepare students for jobs as airline pilots.

United Airlines is seeking to hire more than 10,000 pilots in the next decade, according to Kuldeep Rawat, ECSU’s director of aviation science and dean of the School of Aviation, Emergency Management, Health and Technology.

“This exclusive partnership with United Airlines brings the most direct route to a job offer for ECSU aviation students with United,” Rawat said in a statement released by the university. “United Airlines staff will provide support and coaching to help our students on their journey to become a United Airlines pilot, which includes access to senior leadership, site visits and tours, and certain travel privileges.”

United Airlines this week said 50 percent of its hiring goal includes women and people of color.

“Over the next decade, United will train 5,000 pilots who will be guaranteed a job with United, after they complete the requirements of the Aviate program — and our plan is for half of them to be women and people of color,” said United CEO Scott Kirby in the airline’s announcement Tuesday.

ECSU Chancellor Karrie G. Dixon said the new partnership is another indication the university’s aviation science program is growing.

“This is an exciting next step for our aviation program, and most importantly our students,” Dixon said. “By partnering with United Airlines, ECSU is able to establish a pipeline for our aviation students, offering them unprecedented access to careers in aviation.”

The partnership provides ECSU aviation students:

• A direct path to United, as Aviate participants transition to United as a first officer upon successfully completing the Aviate program and hiring requirements;

• Travel privileges to hundreds of United destinations;

• A structured format for critical leadership and career development opportunities; and

• Opportunities for professional development events and programs providing a breadth of resources to learn and grow throughout the Aviate network.

Rawat said aviation science flight students at ECSU can now apply to join United’s Aviate program and prepare for a structured career pathway to becoming a United Airlines pilot.

“The program offers pilots at all stages of their journey — from college training to regional airline flying — the most direct path to flying for United, as well as the quickest progression from college to the rank of first officer of any major airline program in the industry,” he said.

United Airlines Aviate program staff plan to work closely with ECSU to promote the university’s aviation science program through its website and various events.

Spencer Edwards, a flight student slated to graduate in 2022, said he likes teaching others to fly and plans to pursue a career as a flight instructor. But the Aviate pathway is a great opportunity for students who wish to become airline pilots.

“It’s very helpful to a lot of students,” Edwards said. “For a lot of students that’s their career path and it’s great that that is available to them. Not many other universities can say the same thing.”

Actually, only four others can say it. Rawat noted that ECSU is only the fifth aviation school anywhere to enter an “exclusive partnership” with United.

Not only will United Airlines Aviate mentor ECSU students, the program also will promote ECSU and help recruit students for the university’s flight education program, he said.

Rawat said United Airlines has the largest fleet of wide-bodied aircraft and makes 5,000 flights a day from some 350 airports.

ECSU’s instructional fleet has now grown to 13 aircraft. Flight instructor Brandon Cotten said the newest aircraft in the fleet features instrumentation that prepares students to fly larger, more complex planes.

“A lot of aircraft in the corporate world use that same avionics suite,” agreed Edwards.

Reginald Thomas, an ECSU flight instructor who is working toward becoming an airline pilot, said United Airlines Aviate will streamline the pathway for current students interested in becoming airline pilots.