The Northwestern College Magazine
GRADUATES OF THREE NMC PROGRAMS GET HIRED
Bryan Linck, 39,
First Officer with Republic Airways
when Marine Technology student Tyler Smith finished his internship with eTrac, Inc. in Alaska, he was thrilled to get a full-time job offer, a full 18 months before he’ll graduate.
“They gave me a standing job offer,” says Smith, 38, at right who marvels at the concept of an employer willing to wait for him. His previous degrees, including a bachelor’s and a master’s, led him to bounce around both the job market and the country, following career opportunities.
But early and multiple job offers aren’t unusual for Marine Technology, one of three NMC programs that can boast of 100 percent employment upon graduation.
“Our industry is starving for people,” says Dave Bernstein, a program manager for Geodynamics, a North Carolina employer. He attended and recruited students like Smith at the Lakebed 2030 conference, which NMC hosted on the Great Lakes campus last September.
NMC’s Marine Technology program offers the college’s newest bachelor’s degree, the only one of its kind in the world. It has become a prestigious credential for an emerging economic sector known as the “blue economy.”
Aviation and Police Academy, two other top programs in terms of employment, have a longer history on campus. Industry changes and an aging workforce are driving demand for these graduates (airline pilots, for example, have been opting for early retirement since Covid, and also have a mandatory retirement age of 65). The fields have also grown more diverse, specialized and sophisticated.
Aviation is just an incredible career that offers unlimited opportunities for learning, growth, and earning potential.
NMC offers top-notch instruction in all three areas—here, graduates from each program share their stories.
NMC HOPES TO RECEIVE STATE GRANT FUNDS TO UPDATE AND EXPAND ITS AGING HANGAR, BUILT IN 1978.
TYPICAL TIME TO COMPLETE PROGRAM:
TWO YEARS (ASSOCIATE DEGREE)
TYPICAL STARTING SALARY:
$70,000, PLUS SIGN-ON BONUSES OF $50,000+
PILOT FOR AIRLINES, CORPORATE OR CHARTER AIRCRAFT, AIR FREIGHT INDUSTRY. AIR TOURS, PIPELINE PATROL, AIR AMBULANCE,FERRY AIRCRAFT FOR BROKERS AND DEALERS, PROFESSIONAL FLIGHT INSTRUCTOR.
There’s a global pilot shortage,” says NMC Director of Aviation Alex Bloye. “If a student graduates, they are getting a job.”
2020 graduate Bryan Linck, 39, can verify that.
“I’d always had this voice in the back of my head that said I wanted to be a pilot,” says Linck, of Traverse City. He decided to heed that voice after tiring of a previous career in education and nonprofits, so he returned to school at NMC.
Linck completed the aviation program in a year, earning a scholarship as well. He worked as a flight instructor for a year and a half to accrue the flight hours required to become a commercial airline pilot, and is now a first officer for Republic Airways.
“Aviation is just an incredible career that offers unlimited opportunities for learning, growth, and earning potential,” says Linck, who expects to advance to captain within the next year, which will more than triple his starting salary. He lives in Traverse City with a work schedule that alternates between a month flying out of Chicago and a month conducting employee training at Republic’s Indianapolis headquarters.
NMC graduates stand out in the job market, Bloye said, due to Aviation’s “venture learning” philosophy. That means getting in the cockpit the first semester, flying in all seasons and weather conditions, overnight and with passengers.
“Every flight student in the country is getting the same qualification on paper. Our venture learning approach truly puts out a more confident pilot,” Bloye says.. “They have experienced more things in more environments than most graduates in the United States.”
Bloye expects the pilot shortage to continue for at least another decade—which means NMC’s 130 current aviation students are in the catbird seat.
AVIATION AIMS TO INCREASE ENROLLMENT
1 new plane = 10 students
With a pilot shortage, why not train more students? In its strategic plan, NMC Next, NMC hopes to do exactly that— but more hangar space and airplanes are needed first.
A $7 million request to the state of Michigan would allow the hangar expansion, which in turn means more student planes. Three more planes are needed to serve the targeted increase of 30 students by June 2024; the program currently has 130 active students.
“We really feel like we owe it to our students to offer more availability, more space and more flight time,” Aviation director Alex Bloye says.
Shane Perkins, 36,
Senior Technical Coordinator, Fugro Americas
TYPICAL TIME TO COMPLETE PROGRAM:
YEARS (BACHELOR'S DEGREE)
TYPICAL STARTING SALARY:
MAPPING AND HYDROGRAPHY, MARINE CONSTRUCTION, EXPLORATION, SCIENCE AND RESEARCH, ENVIRONMENTAL MONITORING. OFFSHORE AND ONSHORE CAREER OPTIONS.
Alpena native Shane Perkins’ family military background led him to the Army straight out of high school. While enlisted, he picked up scuba diving as a hobby, and considered a career in commercial diving after discharge. Then he learned many diving jobs were being eliminated by ROVs, remotely operated vehicles.
He’d also worked with robotics when stationed in Afghanistan. His Veterans Affairs benefits covered the expense of a bachelor’s degree, so from Germany, his last station, Perkins, now 36, started looking for college programs. NMC’s Marine Technology seemed ideal.
When you are put in a leadership position you see the whole picture. [NMC’s] program was perfect for that.
“I could bridge my love of diving and marine environment with working with robotics,” he says.
With his wife still in Germany, Perkins fast-tracked his education, completing the program in three years. Since his 2018 graduation he’s worked for Fugro, the largest subsea geodata company in the world, which came on campus to recruit. His job conducting offshore geophysical surveying allows him to spend half the year with his family in Germany, and work in 30- to 60-day stints at offshore sites all around the world, from Myanmar to Canada.
Perkins has advanced steadily, and credits the comprehensive nature of NMC’s program, which included project management, oceanography, electronics and data processing, as well as international experience with a capstone project in Indonesia.
“We were exposed to a lot of different aspects. I think that’s helped me get promoted along the way,” he says. “When you are put in a leadership position you see the whole picture. [NMC’s] program was perfect for that.”
MARINE TECHNOLOGY STUDENT TYLER SMITH, WITH NMC'S RESEARCH VESSEL
TYLER SMITH IN ALASKA DURING HIS INTERNSHIP.
Cam & Olivia Drzewiecki
23, deputies, Leelanau County Sheriff’s Department
TYPICAL TIME TO COMPLETE PROGRAM:
ONE SEMESTER BEGINNING FALL 2023
$54,202 (INDEED.COM), $68,500 (INTUIT MINT.COM)
LOCAL POLICE AND SHERIFF’S AGENCIES, MICHIGAN STATE POLICE.
Leelanau County Sheriff’s deputies Cam and Olivia Drzewiecki both turned to NMC’s Police Academy to make their dream careers in law enforcement a reality.
Throughout Michigan, law enforcement agencies need many more like the couple, who graduated, married, and joined the department all in 2021. At a Michigan sheriff’s conference last fall, 68 out of the 70 counties represented all had vacancies, says Mike Shea, undersheriff in neighboring Grand Traverse County.
“We are bleeding police officers. They are leaving the profession at an alarming rate,” Shea adds.
Beginning this fall, NMC will respond to that urgency with a restructured one-semester Police Academy expected to double the number of graduates. Students will receive the same training by attending full time for 16 weeks, instead of part-time as they do now for the nine-month academic year.
The need for law enforcement personnel is so great that the state of Michigan has created a $30 million fund for recruitment and training. Police agencies can apply for up to $20,000 per student to send recruits through training. The condensed format will make NMC much more attractive to such employed recruits, Police Academy Director Gail Kurowski says.
They want to help you succeed and turn you into the best police officer.
– Olivia Drzewiecki
“I’m hoping to service our community up here,” Kurowski says. “There are agencies up in the U.P. that are [having to send] people all the way to the Detroit area.”
Shea, a 2005 NMC alumnus himself, expects it will. He has one candidate in mind already, a corrections officer who is interested in becoming a certified officer.
“The sixteen-week program is going to be huge,” he says. “We can potentially create a pipeline.”
New recruits will get top-notch instruction from current or former law enforcement officers NMC hires.
“They want to help you succeed and turn you into the best police officer,” Olivia Drzewiecki says. Both add that the scenario-based virtual reality simulation training and unmanned aerial systems training available at NMC are among the most current in the profession. NMC’s Police Academy is the only one in the state to offer UAS certification as part of its training.
“When you piece it all together, it helps you be the best police officer you can be,” Cam said.
Scholarships for each helped pay for their education, and both graduated without debt.