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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Student likes versatility of Aviation program

April 28, 2014
Atfer 17 years of working for Barnes and Noble, Jeff decided to look into a different career, to become trained in something a bit more hands-on, more technical.

You might not think Jeff Ball is someone you would find in Fresno’s Aviation Maintenance Technology program. He spent 17-years with Barnes and Noble in positions that began with selling books and ended in management.

“I wore every hat in that building,” he laughs.

Jeff left that long-term association, briefly worked a retail job, and then took a few months off last summer to spend some time with his family-to-be: Jaime, daughters Madeline and Katherine and son Christian. It was a time for new beginnings.

Jeff got married in October and in November he made a decision to go back to school. He did a lot of research to find a career direction that would excite him and provide a stable future for his family. Aviation maintenance might not have been his first thought for exploration, but the more he checked it out, the more it made perfect sense.

“I was always the kid who tore things apart,” says Jeff. “I’ve always been fairly mechanical and inclined toward problem-solving. I researched the job market and just went in this direction.”

He started the AMT program last November and immediately jumped to the front of the class.

“Jeff is a high achieving, model student who is always eager to help others,” says Lionel Smith, Airframe instructor at the Fresno Aviation campus, located at the Fresno Yosemite International airport. “He is an active participant in the Student Council, maintains a solid 4.0 GPA, and he was selected as the Student of the AERO for March.”

Jeff especially likes the balance of classroom study with lots of hangar time.

“I get to do cool hands-on stuff every day, and work with a great group of guys – and a couple of girls here too,” he says. “This definitely has more of the cool factor. You’re working on planes!”

One of Jeff’s favorite projects was when each student had to put together a ‘Buzz Box’. They were given a “bag of parts” to make into an actual electronic working circuit, a task that would take several hours during their spare class time. Jeff was first to finish.

“It lets out an audible tone when you have everything adjusted correctly,” says Jeff, so it was pretty clear who hit the finish line first. “After I was done doing mine, I had the knowledge to help my fellow students finish and get theirs running.”

Jeff was not sure how demanding his AMT program would be on his life, so he made the decision to not work, but devote his full attention to his studies. Almost six months in, however, he has found that he can complete his program requirements while he is at school. This leaves him free to enjoy his family each day and help his kids with their schoolwork. Jeff feels his family’s support too.

“It really does help that Jaine and the kids are proud of me for going to school,” says Jeff. “My son came to see the campus and see what I do. Their support helps me stay focused.”

One of the primary reasons Jeff was so confident in the success he could achieve from the Aviation Maintenance Tech program, was the versatility of career choices after graduation.

“What is really nice about our program is you don’t have to work in the aviation industry,” he says. “You can work on vehicles for agriculture picking, hydraulics, escalators and elevators, because the certification is backed up by FAA and carries a lot of weight. You can actually work on roller coasters! Right now I’m really enjoying working on planes,” says Jeff.

Jeff is also appreciative of the job search support he will get at SJVC.

“Another reason for me to come to SJVC is we’ve got a Job Placement Specialist,” he says. “She has years of networking in this industry, which is a very big help to some of us just stepping into the field.”

Visions of Boeing, URS, and Blackhawks swirl in his future. SkyWest Airlines has hired several AMT graduates from SJVC’s Aviation campus.

Jeff ponders that possibility. “We’d get to fly for free!”

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