Aerospace Training Takes Wing at CareerTech
Gordon Cooper Technology Center Aviation Maintenance Technology Instructor Aimee Enslinger works with Andrew Heffley, senior at Tecumseh High School, as he learns to install timed magnetos on the engine of a Piper Baron.
Oklahoma’s aerospace industry isn’t the largest, but it is the fastest growing, said retired Brig. Gen. Ben Robinson.
The industry is facing a problem in Oklahoma, however: finding skilled workers. That’s where the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education comes in – to train employees and potential employees.
Robinson, former commander, 552nd Air Control Wing, Tinker Air Force Base, and a former Boeing executive, is working with CareerTech to develop a program “for educating and training engineer technicians,” he said. Moore Norman Technology Center will house the pilot program, Robinson said, which he hopes will eventually be expanded statewide.
Moore Norman is hosting a dinner in September for aerospace industry partners and Oklahoma City Community College representatives to discuss what the industry needs and how to develop an educational program to fill those needs.
“Based on what our industry partners tell us about the need, we intend to address both education and technical training in our program – that is theory and application of engineering skills and knowledge,” Robinson said.
Francis Tuttle Technology Center in Oklahoma City has been filling the aerospace industry’s need for aircraft sheet metal mechanics since 2006. More than 600 students have graduated, and more than 500 have sought aerospace employment. Of those, more than 93 percent found jobs as aircraft sheet metal mechanics.
The program was so successful that in summer 2010, the waiting list of applicants mushroomed to 1,200, and the technology center stopped taking new applicants, said Clark Jermain, Francis Tuttle Business and Industry Services training project manager. The influx of applicants allowed FTTC to become very selective, and student quality increased. The technology center began taking applications again in August; the waiting list is now at 250.
Francis Tuttle recently added general familiarization training for Boeing 737 and Bombardier CRJ700 aircraft in response to a request from AAR Oklahoma, a company that provides aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul to airlines. AAR officials want mechanics in all specialties to receive the GenFam training to increase aircraft safety, Jermain said.
“To our knowledge, this is the first instance nationally that any aerospace company has outsourced its general familiarization training to a public training institution,” he said.
The class is designed for AAR employees, but is open to all students and recent graduates in the Airframe and Powerplant Mechanics program, Jermain said.
CareerTech’s ability to respond quickly to industry’s needs is one of the system’s strengths and how it helps economic development locally and statewide, said Doug Major, superintendent/CEO of Meridian Technology Center in Stillwater. The system also works together “to address needs so companies stay Oklahoma companies,” he said. “That is one of great points of being part of the CareerTech system.”
Meridian recently used both strengths – its ability to mold training for local needs and cooperation with other technology centers – when it helped Stillwater attract an aerospace company to the community. Belgian company ASCO Industries announced in July it would open a production facility in Stillwater, its first in the United States. Meridian and ASCO representatives visited several CareerTech campuses to show company officials the resources and services available in the CareerTech System, as well as what a partnership between CareerTech and a large manufacturing company like ASCO would look like.
Meridian already offers training in a lot of the core skills ASCO employees will need, Major said, and will simply need to refine the training and add those sections that are specific to ASCO, which makes components and assemblies for aircraft companies like Boeing and Airbus.
Those who go through the training will be able to use their skills in other jobs as well, Major said, making the program even more valuable to efforts to grow Oklahoma’s aerospace industry.
Industry growth is a major aim of the pilot program planned at Moore Norman.
“We want Oklahoma to be seen as a great place for future aerospace industries. This is one way we can make this a very attractive state for sustainment and growth,” Robinson explained. “We want to provide a well-educated, trained and motivated individual with the knowledge and skills to do engineering tasks for our industry partners.”
Sidebar - CareerTech’s FAA-certified aviation maintenance technology programs
CareerTech’s FAA-certified aviation maintenance technology programs provide the required 1,900-plus hours of instruction students need to be eligible to sit for the FAA Airframe and Powerplant certification exams.
“Very high job placement rates and high wages make these programs in high demand,” said H.L. Baird, CareerTech aerospace program supervisor. “These programs provide the critical certificated workforce that the aircraft MRO and modifications companies need to meet FAA requirements.
Thousands of Oklahomans began their aerospace careers at these CareerTech technology centers.”
Five technology centers offer A&P programs:
- Southwestern Oklahoma Tech Center in Altus
- Canadian Valley Technology Center in El Reno
- Metro Tech Technology Centers in Oklahoma City
- Gordon Cooper Technology Center in Shawnee
- Tulsa Technology Centers
Sept. 20, 2012
Laura Wilson, Editor/Writer
Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education
1500 W. Seventh Ave., Stillwater, OK 74074