In-demand Aviation jobs brought employers to recent graduate
27-year-old Louis McArthur did his time stocking shelves, working in retail and managing pizza places. He was ready to commit to more education to open the right doors, and had two things driving his career choice: He wanted to work with his hands and he wanted something that would allow him to provide steadily for his family.
A bonus? Getting to work with anything that flies.
He found the right mix in the Aviation Maintenance Technology program at the Fresno Aviation campus. “I always enjoyed building things, and I love space and thought aircraft was close to that,” says Louis. Plus, his wife Kathleen’s dad (Lionel Smith) is one of the instructors at the campus, and the whole family encouraged him to pursue his long-held career dreams.
Throughout his 16-month Aviation Maintenance Technology program, Louis was interested to see a steady stream of potential employers visit the campus, scouting future employees. “Companies came down to interview us and tell us what they were looking for,” says Louis, “and we knew that we fit the bill. They were actively recruiting at SJVC and it gave me a lot of confidence. I thought, ‘this is awesome; I’m actually going to be able to provide for my family.’”
Louis’ learning style was bold. “I don’t mind looking stupid,” he says bluntly. “I’m fine with asking questions if I don’t understand something. If I don’t know something and other people do, I don’t mind taking their knowledge.”
Louis took that knowledge and ran with it. His classroom studies and hands-on training in the hangar went well, and he earned a 4.0 GPA.
“Grades don’t matter as much in the end as your attitude and your effort for learning,” says Louis. “If the teacher knows that you put the effort in and you tried your best, they know that many employers want those qualities most of all.”
“Louis was always my number one choice (when we would have high school students visit our campus or have a public open house) to lead demonstrations to show what an aircraft mechanic does,” says Jason Alves, Academic Dean/Dean of Student Services. “Louis was not only knowledgeable in the subjects, but had a great rapport with them and represented our school well.”
Louis identifies with those high school students who want to get the maximum value for the time they devote to their career education. “I did about two years in community college, broken up throughout my twenties,” he says. “You can’t progress because you can’t get this one class that’s already full and have to wait until it comes back around. Always fighting to get the courses you want. I hated that.”
SJVC took all that frustration away. “At SJVC, it was a nice solid run; no break. In the end, I got my A&P (Airframe and Power Plant) license and the Associate’s degree quicker.”
Learning was a completely different experience for Louis at the Aviation campus. “Here, you learn in the hangar. At any point, you can put your book down, walk over to a plane and start working on it; use your hands-on technique to learn what you’re studying.”
Just before Louis graduated last December, The Spaceship Company, Virgin Galactic’s sister company, sent a recruiter to the campus, with three positions to fill. “They told us they might walk away with zero hires,” he recalls.
After multiple interviews, Louis was one of three Aviation students offered positions at their Mojave facility. He was very excited at the prospect of working on spacecraft.
Louis, Kathleen and their two cats Kim and Vin recently made the move to Lancaster. Louis commutes from there to his new position as Systems Associate Manufacturing Technician. After two weeks of training, he is fully integrated into his new position, helping to build new spacecraft specifically constructed for future civilian space travel.
“Everything is very high precision – and can’t be off even a little,” says Louis. “I had to sign a lot of non-disclosure agreements and a lot of what I work on I can’t talk about.”
He wanted to take something home that he made in training, but was not allowed to remove it from the premises. “I was told it shows what goes into it and might allow someone to learn their secrets,” says Louis. All that intrigue suits him just fine.
There are lots of opportunities for advancement in his work. “There are definitely upper positions I’d like to look at,” says Louis. “Advancement is knowledge-based. Once you learn how to do a certain job, you make sure you can guide others. That’s what can get me promoted. Doing something and doing it well, and be able to help others.”
Louis looks forward to a long career in an exciting industry. Every day his work helps a select few of our population get a little closer to their own dream…space travel.
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