BATESVILLE, AR (KAIT) - Imagine a career field where schools don't turn out graduates fast enough to fill the openings from retirements.
The Aerospace industry is in just that position now with not enough mechanics available... But 12 Arkansas 2-year colleges have banded together to address this problem as a whole.
"We teach the basic skill set so that when students are hired by an employer they are ready to learn the aircraft that their employer maintains." Says Program Director Steve Paull. Their program at Batesville has only been around for about 3 years.
The University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville or UACCB is one of 12 2 year colleges in Arkansas that have aviation related programs. The rest are scattered about in nearly every part of the state.
Paull told me that their program is still growing and attracting more students.
"Our program at UACCB is the Airframe and Powerplant Program which is certificated by the FAA."
1900 hours of classroom, aircraft structures and engine instruction and hands-on experience.
Paull, "When you graduate you are a highly qualified student ready to go out and learn the business." Which means you have the basic skill sets but can't sign anything off until you are trained on the particular aircraft that your company use.
In February of 2009 8 colleges collaborated to receive and share a 2.9 million dollar job training grant that was used to upgrade aviation maintenance programs. The organization which has grown to include several other colleges and universities is labeled the "Arkansas Aerospace Training Consortium."
One of the biggest advantages of the consortium is resources. What one school may not have, another might and loan it to them for their instructional period.
Paull, "We share all our resources. The instructors get together and share instructional resources and share what they found that works to better train students."
Roger Balser is about half way through the program. He likes the teaching atmosphere of a smaller technical program.
"It's more of a one on one type. It's not like they're trying to teach a 150 people."
There are currently 27 students in the program now with 3 full time instructors and 1 adjunct. Paull says he would like to see the program grow to 50 students.
Balser says he wants to graduate and get out there in the world.
"There's a lot of jobs out there. All you have to do is go on the Internet and type in aviation jobs and boom...goes on for days."