Aviation Maintenance Technology was an unexpected career choice
Greg Wenger was pushing thirty and “relying on friends and doing the couch-surfing thing”, he says, when he had a serious realization. “I didn’t really have any education background that I could apply to the job market. Although he had worked at computer drafting and even tutored City College students, “It was down to working fast-food or going back to college.”
It was not a difficult decision. Greg considered his education options and career choices.
He had always been interested in aircraft and had, in fact, really gotten into remote control aircraft, which he had been building and flying for a couple of years. As it happened, the SJVC Aviation campus in Fresno was holding an Open House and Greg thought it might be interesting to check out the Aviation Maintenance Technology (AMT) program.
Plus…there was pizza.
“I never thought about having a career in aviation, but I had an understanding of systems on a basic level, so it made sense to me,” says Greg. “I met instructors and students that were there at the time. It just spoke to me.”
Greg’s parents, Fred and Theresa, were happy to see him settle on a career path and offered him a place to stay while he went to school full-time. “They wanted to give me something a little more stable so that I would be able to focus,” says Greg.
And he did. Greg pulled a 4.0 GPA, joined Student Council where he was elected Treasurer, did some community volunteer work and was given the Student of the Aero award, along the way.
“The material came naturally for me,” he says. “I didn’t feel lost and always felt I was on the right track.”
Part of Greg’s motivation was a friendly competition with fellow student, Brian Nusser. “We competed for marks in class, and I’m not ashamed to say I wasn’t always Number One,” Greg admits.
Greg tried not to think too much about what the future might bring, but focused on what was right in front of him every day. “I think I left the idea of my future kind of blank because I didn’t want to narrow the possibilities too much before I even got there.”
He drew inspiration from in-the-moment experiences. “The one thing that kept me inspired the entire time is actually being on the airport and watching the planes every day and knowing that was going to be a part of my future,” he says. “It would be exciting to work on aircraft on a daily basis.” (SJVC’s Aviation campus is located at the Fresno-Yosemite International airport.)
“Greg was a student who really took the concept of “shared governance” to heart,” says Jack Macfarlane, Aviation Campus Director. “To him, the Aviation campus was HIS school and he continually looked for ways to make things better for his classmates.”
Greg graduated in August, 2014 and went right to work for a manufacturer of commercial geosynchronous communication satellites in Palo Alto. A recent company down-size put Greg back in touch with Sue Montgomery, who handles Career Services support at the Aviation campus.
“Greg was a pleasure to help in his job search. He was highly professional, articulate, and yet humble in his demeanor towards finding work in the aviation sector,” says Sue. “He did exceptionally well in the aviation program at SJVC, and I knew that whomever interviewed him would be very impressed!”
Sue set Greg up with an interview with Northrop Grumman, one of the largest military aircraft companies around. Within a week Northrop Grumman offered Greg a position as Structural Mechanic for their huge operation in Palmdale, CA.
“I’m going to be helping build part of the fuselage for the F-35, their newest fighter jets, with light stealth capabilities, that are replacing the F-22 Raptors,” says Greg.
Greg feels as though he has made a pretty smooth landing in the career of his dreams and enjoys the camaraderie and support he has found there. “This field attracts a certain kind of person,” says Greg. “They are quality individuals, good-spirited; maybe a little rough around the edges – something I can appreciate. They are those people who would help you at the drop of a hat.”
Now 31 years old, Greg’s future looks bright. “The company is generous and gives $15,000 to each employee to continue their education,” he says. “There are so many possibilities and there is no loss for options in front of me.”
Greg reflects on the road he took to get to this point and remembers the good times along the way. “There were definitely some fun things to do (in the Aviation program), like taxiing the aircraft and building our wing segments, he says.”
It looks as though his couch-surfing days are fond memories, as well.
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