ken-witcher-erau.jpg Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

Fast 5: Embry-Riddle Launches Military Bridge Training Program

On Aug. 5, Embry-Riddle started teaching 13 Marine Corps employees who will be transitioning out of the military A&P courses. Kenneth Witcher, dean of the university’s College of Aeronautics, discusses this new program, which will be followed up with a second one starting in December.

How is Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University working with the U.S. Defense Department to transition service people to civilian aviation maintenance careers?

It’s a Defense Department program that has looked for ways to give service members the skills they need to be successful as they transition from the service and into the civilian workforce. There are several Career Skillbridge programs out there. Embry-Riddle is one of the first that stepped in from a university perspective with full education credits and training that provides that skill bridge. We’ve been doing it for several years with a partnership with Microsoft, where we’ve offered IT skills. Earlier this week, we launched our first Skillbridge Program in the aviation maintenance technology. Most airlines, MROs and OEMs are looking for ways to create a talent flow—a pipeline into their organizations—so we want to help the industry but also want to help the transitioning service members. At Embry-Riddle, we have a long history of working very closely with the military. This Defense Department program is a great way to connect the dots.

How does it work?

The DoD works with the transitioning service member’s commander to allow that service member within 180 days of separation to attend a course full-time, as long as there is an industry partner at the end that guarantees an interview. So it’s really a three-way partnership: Defense supports it and has the most skin in the game, as far as supporting these transitioning service members. We come in as an education provider and teach the skills for that student to be successful as they enter the industry, and our industry partners guarantee an interview for each of these transitioning members. It allows the industry to talk with the service members and get to know them.

Embry-Riddle provides 18 credit hours of our Part 65 certificate program where we teach the academic side of the FAA A&P certificate. And in this instance, AAR is allowing us to teach its Boeing 737 familiarization course, which allows the students to receive an AAR certification while they’re in the course, as well. We also bring in our career services team to teach soft skills, including how to interview and write resumes. It’s a win-win-win for everybody. The students have a great work ethic and many times these students have months or years of experience of working on high-performance aircraft in the military.

Are the classes online or do the students have to go to an Embry-Riddle campus?

For this particular program, the aviation maintenance technology skill bridge, we only have them for nine weeks, fulltime. That’s when we teach those 18 credit hours, which is really the airframe, powerplant and general content of the A&P knowledge test, as well as the add ons I talked about. We do this face to face, at the location. Our current agreement, the one we launched on Monday, Aug. 5, is at Marine Corps Air Station New River, in North Carolina. We have faculty there that spend 40 hours a week with them for that nine-week period. The student leaves with 18 transcripted credit hours in aviation maintenance technology from Embry-Riddle, a 737 familiarization certification from AAR and a guaranteed interview with AAR or Pratt & Whitney.

Getting 18 credit hours over nine weeks sounds accelerated. Is it?

It is fast. Our programs that we deliver on campus usually meet for one night per week for about 4.5 hours over nine weeks. This one, we’re combining six courses and doing it in fulltime format, 40 hours per week, so yes, it’s busy. We don’t want to spread this over months because the students are still employed by the Defense Department. Instead of going to work they are coming to class.

Are you working with other industry partners, besides AAR and Pratt & Whitney, as well as other branches of the military?

There is a lot of interest from the industry—airlines, MROs and OEMs—and there are a lot of ways we can help. But lots of times, airlines only need A&P certificate holders, and not all of our graduates will be. Many will, and a lot of will have the experience to be able to take the A&P exam, but not all of them. We’re providing that bridge for students who are interested in the industry and have the mechanical aptitude. They will have some experience—maybe turbine experience on a tank--but they can’t go out right now and take the A&P and pass it. We’re providing the skills to help them enter the aviation industry and get experience. With this program, we provide a clear pathway to get into the aviation industry.

We are also working on agreements with the Air Force and the Navy. We want to scale this to a point where we can really make a difference.

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