In Holding Pattern, Grad Is Waiting To Take Off Yoelvis Bengochea earned a degree in aviation management so he could become an air traffic controller. But in order to find a job, he has to wait for an older generation of controllers to retire. In the meantime, he's working for his family business cleaning pools.

In Holding Pattern, Grad Is Waiting To Take Off

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Today, reporter Niala Boodhoo of member station WLRN in Miami has the story of a new graduate who is trying to launch his career as an air traffic controller.


NIALA BOODHOO: Yoelvis just graduated from Miami Dade College with an Associate's Degree in aviation management. He wants to work as an air traffic controller. He's 25 and originally started college right out of high school at nearby Barry University.

YOELVIS BENGOCHEA: I went there for like a year and a half and then I decided to take a break and it became a long break.

BOODHOO: Yoelvis makes $400 a week and is paying off $9,000 in student loans. When his daughter was born more than a year ago, he realized he needed another career.

BENGOCHEA: Running a business is a lot harder than people think. You give more hours than anybody else.

BOODHOO: Yoelvis and his older sister were born in Havana, Cuba. They're the first generation of their family to go to college. Their mother, Maria Alvarez, started and still runs the family business, Hialeah Pool Supplies.

MARIA ALVAREZ: (Foreign language spoken)

BOODHOO: She says she's very happy that Yoelvis has graduated. She thinks it's a great success and good for his future. The possibility of a college education is one of the biggest reasons she brought the family from Cuba, when Yoelvis was just eight years old.

ALVAREZ: (Through translator) I came here so they would have a chance at a prosperous future and have many more opportunities. In Cuba, opportunities are few. That's why it was very important that they come to this country.


BOODHOO: Back at one of the 15 pools he plans to clean today, Yoelvis pulls out his brush and starts scrubbing. It's getting hot.

BENGOCHEA: See that little green (unintelligible) algae. And like all the dust on the bottom is that black stuff.

BOODHOO: So you're kind of an expert on pools, huh?


BENGOCHEA: I don't know about an expert. I know a little bit of it - more than I want to know.

BOODHOO: When Yoelvis went back to school, he went non-stop and finished the two-year program early. As an air traffic controller, Yoelvis will likely start at a small airport, making about $45,000 a year. His goal is to work at Miami International Airport, where he could make more than $100,000. Right now, he's waiting for his paperwork to be processed. Then he'll apply with the Federal Aviation Administration.

BENGOCHEA: I think like I'll find a job but it just takes a while - probably around a year.

BOODHOO: Until a job opens up, for Yoelvis there's still the pool.

BENGOCHEA: This job is not bad for somebody that does not have a degree or anything, or that's coming from another country and whatever they study is not validated(ph) here. It pays pretty good for cleaning pools. It's not a bad job. It's just not for me.

BOODHOO: For NPR News, I'm Niala Boodhoo in Miami.

INSKEEP: Tomorrow, we go to South Dakota and meet an Air Force veteran who is now armed with a new business degree.

INSKEEP: The military helped me out with this degree, so essentially the money's coming from the taxpayers and everything. I really don't want to let it go to waste.

INSKEEP: That's tomorrow as our series continues on MORNING EDITION.

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