As part of AAR’s proactive efforts to build a pipeline of technical talent by working with colleges nears its five bases in the U.S., it is partnering with a Chicago college to launch an aviation sheet metalworking course.
The course, set to launch in March, will be taught at Olive-Harvey College, one of seven schools that are part of City Colleges of Chicago. After students complete the 300-hour sheet metal course, which includes hands-on training with sheet metal from aircraft, they will be qualified for entry-level jobs in aviation or manufacturing. “Or they can continue their education at Olive-Harvey and earn stackable, portable skills in avionics and aviation electronics that will be added as part of AAR’s EAGLE (ethics, airworthiness, greatness, leadership, engagement) Career Pathway program,” says John Holmes, AAR CEO.
The MRO’s pathway program is designed to provide a systematic way for students to build the skills they will need for MRO careers by working with schools to provide maintenance training that exceeds the FAA requirements.
“The pathway shows students how they can increase their earnings with each skill, earning up to $80,000 within five years, without college debt. Olive-Harvey graduates can also go on to pursue their FAA aircraft mechanics certification. In which case, AAR can offer up to $15,000 in tuition reimbursement,” says Holmes. All program graduates will be able to interview with AAR, which also will offer apprenticeships.
He says the initiative with Olive-Harvey started after he met with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who asked him “what keeps you up at night?” Holmes said labor, because “AAR desperately needs more aviation mechanics to continue to grow.”
After connecting with the City Colleges of Chicago’s chancellor, Juan Salgado, “AAR agreed to create the curriculum for a 300-hour aviation sheet metal course. Our investment is a combination of technical resources, in-kind contributions of tooling and equipment assets; a financial commitment; scholarships and apprenticeships, and securing a donation of three aircraft,” says Holmes. AAR also is working with the school to hire a training director/lead instructor.
Because AAR already had developed a sheet metal class for an aviation training school in Oklahoma, where the MRO also has a facility, creating the one for Olive-Harvey only took a few months.
AAR hopes to enroll 15 students in the first course this spring, but once it’s up to capacity, it should be able to accommodate 80 students.
To find students interested in the sheet metal class, the City Colleges of Chicago strongly recruits Chicago Public School students, who can attend the colleges for free. AAR also is working with AeroStar, “an aviation education program through the CPS that targets students of color, created by Tammera Holmes, and another local high school, Perspectives Charters Schools, where AAR has mentored students and taken them on tours to our aircraft repair hangar in Indianapolis,” says the AAR CEO. It also reaches out to local YMCAs.
AAR hopes to add a composites course at Olive-Harvey within two years.
The program with the Chicago schools follows one that AAR announced with Western Michigan University in October.
In 2019, AAR plans to launch a program called Choose Aerospace with the Aviation Technician Education Council (ATEC) “to raise awareness of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers in aviation that don’t require a four-year degree. We’re especially targeting students that are younger, diverse and female. We believe students will choose aviation if they know about these careers and can see a clear pathway to advancement and middle-class wages,” says Holmes.