Business

Valley Works: Reedley College Aviation Maintenance Technology Program

Monday, October 21, 2013

Thousands of planes both big and small take to the skies every day, and there is a growing demand for maintenance aircraft technicians. Experts say that in ten years the industry will need at least 500,000 new aviation mechanics worldwide.

The Aviation Maintenance Technology Program at Reedley College started in 1947 and is one of the more popular programs at the college. Students earn a FAA certificate and are all but guaranteed a job. "I'm not saying it's exactly like the lottery because it's a lot of hard work but at the same time it's fun, what a blast," Steve Behrens said.

Reedley College is one of the few of community colleges in the state that offer such an aviation maintenance technology program.

"It's a respected school and I am proud to be here," Behrens said.

The students go through about 2,000 hours of training and receive a FAA certification upon completion. The certificate allows them to work on anything from a small Cessna to a large passenger plane like a Boeing 787.

"Easy finding a job anywhere you want to go," Reedley Instructor Kaith Zeike said.

Jobs are plentiful because there is a shortage of aviation mechanics. Next year 40 percent of mechanics and pilots will hit retirement age.

"And they are figuring a shortage of the next 20 years of about one half million new technicians on top of what we have now," Zeike said.

The shortage is worldwide and schools that train the technicians are working to meet the demand.

"We pretty much supply everything you don't have to have any previous aviation knowledge you really have to have an interest in mechanical things and work with your hands," Zeike said.

Reedley has a little over 60 students in its program and about 30 student graduates a year. The program is reaching out to high school students through the Valley Regional Occupational Program.

"We have five high schools in the Valley that can actually take aviation courses there last two periods of the day," Zeike said.

The hope is to spark student interest early on so they will enroll in the program out of high school.

Many of the students in this classroom are older. Behrens is 45 and says he decided to sign up at Reedley because he wasn't making enough money in his previous job. In his new career he has the potential to make just as much as a lawyer or a doctor.

"We're just all big kids playing with expensive toys," Behrens said.

Zeike said that nearly all of his students are offered jobs before they graduate. Reedley's program costs about $3,300 which includes everything even the parking.

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