Savannah Technical College's Aviation Maintenance Training Helps Miitary Personnel
Thursday, November 21st, 2019
Savannah Technical College’s Advanced Aviation Maintenance training offers an opportunity for active-duty military personnel and veterans with aircraft maintainer experience to advance their careers in 15 weeks or less.
The advanced Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) training prepares students to take the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) A&P Certification including written, oral, and practical examinations. With assistance from the Defense Community Economic Development Fund awarded earlier this year, the College has been able to offer A&P Certification testing at no cost to the students.
Using military tuition assistance, HOPE Grant and HOPE Career Grant, the only cost to these students would have been the three-part (written, oral, and practical) exam, which totals $1,080 each. By covering testing fees, the grant offers a cost-free pathway with flexible scheduling that limits the operational impact to military units and the financial impact for service members.
This summer, first cohort was in a condensed 10-week schedule for members of the 3rd ID before they deployed. The College is currently offering three cohorts filled with aircraft maintainers and has tailored class schedules to work with their active-duty assignments.
“The $65,000 grant was originally written to support additional instructors and testing for 45 military-affiliated students,” said STC Dean of Aviation Tal Loos. “The College absorbed the additional instructor expense, so we could expand the grant for more students. We should have up to 60 students receiving assistance for testing fees to complete the grant’s funding.”
Military aircraft maintainers have the work experience and training, but often lack the certifications required to work in the civilian sector. Students must have 30 documented months of A&P work and FAA-approval/sign-off of that work experience to enroll in the advanced training program.
Students in the advanced class have an overall familiarity with aircraft to earn the FAA sign-off. “This training broadens their aircraft maintenance knowledge and gives them an understanding of the civil side of requirements and paperwork,” said Loos. “It fills in the holes of their knowledge with highlights, so they will successfully pass all four parts of the FAA A&P certification training.”
Aviation Ground Support Equipment Manager Angel Rivera is a member of the U.S. Army 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) enrolled in one of the cohorts that is receiving the benefit of 100%-covered testing fees thanks to the grant.
“We don’t get a lot of opportunities to do these kind of certifications, so when I heard about it, I wanted to take action,” said Rivera, who worked with leadership to bring 10 soldiers from his unit into this cohort. “This training will get these guys certified. The A&P license is good for life and good in the military,” said Rivera. “It is a great credential to have if you plan on working on aircraft, and you can use it in a couple of different fields as well.”
Rivera is already screening the next group of soldiers, who work on rotary-wing aircraft like Blackhawks and Chinooks. “We have guys with 10 years aviation experience that still haven’t had a chance to do this,” he said. “All of my guys are experienced, so there’s a great need for this training. I can get 12 in every class all year round in my unit.” The biggest challenge is scheduling to make sure they will be state-side for 15 weeks to attend the class. He also noted that additional grant funds would allow more soldiers to take advantage of the benefits, without the out-of-pocket testing fees.
The College worked with the 160th to schedule the class around their duty schedule, so they could be in class two nights and one Saturday. The other two cohorts this semester are also offered based on the military group’s schedule.
“This certification gives them promotion points now, but also helps them on the way out,” said Rivera. “It gives them something to fall back on, and provides valuable certification they can use on the outside. They can step out to find jobs all over the world working on aircraft, which helps the economy.”
According to Loos, there continues to be great demand for A&P certification. “The average age of workers is 53-70 and many are retiring,” said Loos. “Soon we will lose 50% or more of the aviation mechanic workforce.”
Certified aircraft mechanics are in high demand throughout the nation with a 5% increase in job openings between 2016 and 2026. In Georgia, however, that increase is projected to be 12%. With a median income of more than $60,000 per year, completers of this program who have the highly-sought-after FAA A&P certification, as well as the work ethic and soft skills will seamlessly transition into the civilian aviation workforce.
The Military Affairs Council of the Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the College, was awarded $65,000 in grant funding through the Defense Community Economic Development Fund to support expanded curriculum and to cover the cost of certification testing for military aviation mechanics earlier this year. The fund is administered by the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) Office of Workforce Development. This funding allows for the expansion of training to prepare military members to earn the FAA Mechanic’s Certificate with A&P rating.
The College’s Aviation Maintenance program, for those without the required FAA 30-month experience, runs two years. Enrollment is open for spring semester for students to start taking required general core courses for admission into a cohort in the fall. STC’s Aviation division has an in-field placement rate of 100% based on academic year 2018 graduates.