Fullerton College introduces the first drone piloting apprenticeship program in the United States

Designed to ready tomorrow’s workforce, the Hornet Drone Piloting Apprentice Program aligns with California’s goal of creating half-million apprentices by 2029

There’s something in the air, and it’s a new drone workforce. Fullerton College launched the first-of-its-kind Hornet Drone Piloting Apprenticeship Program, and it’s focused on providing opportunities for underrepresented communities and developing skills for a workforce from all over the region.

The U.S. Department of Labor and the California Department of Apprenticeship Standards recently registered this apprenticeship as the flagship U.S. college program. The Hornet Drone Lab will develop skilled pilots of uncrewed aerial systems (UAS) ready to work with partners in various industries, such as utilities, public safety, and ecology. 

“This program provides a definable opportunity to help further develop the workforce of tomorrow,” said Jay Seidel, Fullerton College professor and director of the Fullerton Drone Lab. “According to a recent study published in Research and Markets, the demand for drone pilots is expected to grow by 51% over the next five years.”

Once accepted into the program, students complete 11 units at Fullerton College that will earn them their FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) and OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) certifications. Then, a partnership with Friends of Fullerton College Foundation (Friends) and Hope Builders Career Connections (HBCC), an Orange County-based social enterprise staffing agency, pairs students with employment partners to complete the required 600 hours of paid on-the-job training. The entire program, developed through the California Apprenticeship Initiative, can be completed within a year and move the new journeymen into the workforce. 

“We have set the program up so a student with need can walk on campus and go from start to finish without having to pay a dime for the program,” said Zoot Velasco, Executive Director of the Friends of Fullerton College Foundation. “They just need to invest their sweat equity. We see this as a potential generational change for families.”

This new apprenticeship meets Governor Gavin Newsom’s goal of creating 500,000 new apprenticeships in California by 2029. In addition, this apprenticeship introduces skilled technicians into the workforce. Employers looking for skilled labor are always encouraged to reach out and see if an employer pipeline can be created by contacting Jay Seidel at [email protected]              

About the Fullerton Drone Lab

The Fullerton Drone Lab at Fullerton College was established in 2018 and has become a drone training and education leader. Fullerton College, founded in 1913, is California’s longest continually operated community college and offers academic and vocational education. More information can be found at: drones.fullcoll.edu.