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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

SkyWest Airlines and SJVC Partner to Offer Aviation Grads a Direct Path to Commercial Aircraft Maintenance Career

July 20, 2018
SkyWest airplane
Image courtesy of SkyWest Airlines

SJVC’s Fresno Aviation campus recently partnered with SkyWest Airlines to form an Apprentice program. This exciting new venture will prepare graduates who have earned their Airframe and PowerPlant licenses to step into coveted mechanic positions with SkyWest’s aircraft maintenance team.

“This partnership is an Apprentice program designed for Aviation Maintenance Technology students who want to go to work for an airline,” says Lionel Smith, Aviation Campus President. “This gives our grads a leg-up for choice positions.”

The Aviation campus and SkyWest have worked together for over 20 years, and every SJVC Aviation graduating class has seen some of their best and brightest become part of the expansive SkyWest team of aviation mechanics.

With 2,400 daily flights, SkyWest Airlines transports millions of passengers each month to 245 destinations across the U.S. Ground maintenance crews maintain a growing fleet of CRJ200, CRJ700, CRJ900 and E175 aircraft at over 24 SkyWest locations across the United States.

“The SkyWest Maintenance Apprentice Program provides a jump-start for aspiring mechanics at SJVC,” says Bill Dykes, SkyWest’s Vice President of Maintenance. “SJVC’s reputation for producing qualified mechanics made our decision to introduce the Apprentice Program an easy one. We’re pleased to provide a career path to SkyWest for SJVC students.”

Aviation Maintenance Tech students enjoy many other education and training advantages in this new partnership. “SkyWest is in the process of identifying a commercial aircraft to donate to our campus that is about five times larger than the biggest one we have now,” says Lionel. The Aviation campus, located at the Fresno-Yosemite International Airport, has the space to house this large aircraft just outside their massive hangar.

SJVC students will also benefit from access to SkyWest’s proven training programs. “To have both the aircraft and the programs that go with it is huge in terms of its training value,” says Lionel. “To read it in a manual, then go out to the aircraft, look at those control valves and put your hands on it; it’s a powerful aid. And it will better prepare our students to work on those commercial aircraft.”

The SkyWest Apprentice Program also provides Aviation Maintenance Technology students with support such as mentorship from SkyWest mechanic advisors, as well as SkyWest facility tours, job shadowing and specialized training.

One of the greatest advantages to the partnership is an employment edge. “SkyWest’s training program generally takes 18 months for recruits to obtain a Level 3 competency status,” says Lionel. “The Apprentice Program reduces a portion of this timeline. That means that as the maintenance technician advances faster, the salary can increase at a much faster rate also.”

“By partnering with SkyWest, SJVC mechanics benefit from mentorship, hands-on experience and a direct pathway to a career in commercial aviation,” says Bill. “In turn, SkyWest is recruiting qualified mechanics to join our growing maintenance team.”

The key to career success for any Aviation Maintenance Technology graduate is earning the Airframe and PowerPlant license. “Most of our students take the tests right after graduation,” says Lionel. “This is a FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) license that allows you to work on anything that flies. You can’t work on any aircraft without it, so if you want to work in the industry, you have to have it.”

SkyWest has prerequisites for Aviation campus students who wish to participate in the Apprentice Program and who have filled out an application. “A candidate must be attending SJVC and in good standing,” says Bill. “Unlike an internship, the Maintenance Apprentice Program allows students to remain at SJVC to complete training until they are able to gain their A&P (Airframe & PowerPlant) license.”

SJVC’s Aviation students and graduates who participate in the SkyWest Apprentice Program enjoy a bright career outcome.

“Enhanced company seniority, guaranteed final interview and access to mechanic advisors are just a few of the benefits students can receive by becoming a SkyWest Apprentice on their way to becoming one of SkyWest’s maintenance professionals,” says Bill.

“Our students are so excited,” says Lionel. “We are the first in SkyWest’s plan to integrate training programs specific to their maintenance crew needs. SJVC is ideal to help them launch this program.”

Although many people may believe that a strong mechanical background is helpful before enrolling in an aircraft maintenance program, Lionel disagrees. “People with no mechanical background tend to do really well because they don’t have any bad habits that we have to break from working on cars,” he says.

He offers a profile of those who do well in this career training field: “People who have a curiosity about how things work; people who just think airplanes are really neat and always wanted to be around them. So long as they have some good study habits and reading skills, they can succeed in this program.”

Students in the program range in age from 17 to 55 years old, demonstrating that things that fly have a cross-generational appeal.

SJVC and SkyWest recently held a joint open house for those interested in the aircraft mechanic program. Attendees were excited to hear about SkyWest’s partnership with SJVC, and were impressed with the Fresno Aviation campus’ hangar and what the program has to offer, says Lionel. Tesha Everett, SkyWest’s Director of HR for Maintenance Recruiting, as well as Mason Houk, the lead trainer for SkyWest Fresno’s maintenance base, participated in the event and spoke about the apprenticeship program. Highlights from their remarks included opportunities with the airline, information on SkyWest’s pay and benefit packages, as well as the benefits of the apprenticeship program.

View Photos from the SkyWest and SJVC Open House


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