Victorville Training Program Gets Country Grant

A Victorville work force training program now has the funding promise it needs to help fill hundreds of aerospace jobs at a former military base.

The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors March 20 approved a $500,000 appropriation for the Southern California Logistics Airport education program.

The airframe and aircraft engine maintenance training program aims to train 150 to 300 mechanics needed each year by 17 airport-based companies. The businesses located at the former George Air Force Base include General Electric, Pratt & Whitney, Victorville Aerospace and the Boeing Co. The companies currently employ 2,600 people.

Victor Valley Aviation Education Consortium surveyed the businesses last year to determine their work force needs. The consortium includes representatives of the airport logistics companies and Victor Valley College.

The $500,000 appropriation will purchase aircraft engines for students to rebuild, for cockpit simulators and other equipment.

The college will begin registering students in August. The consortium plans to order tools, equipment and supplies for work stations in April. Between May and August consortium leaders and Victor Valley College will prepare classrooms, create curriculum and design projects, according to a timeline issued by the county.

The consortium announced Feb. 22 the formation of the 1,900-hour course aimed at high school students. The organization signed a $75,000 contract with the county's Workforce Investment Board to start the program. General and airframe classes are expected to begin in October and powerplant classes in January.

The program Feb. 23 received an additional $179,600 from the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency's employment training panel.

The course requires certification by the Federal Aviation Administration, a designation expected by fall. Students will work for aerospace companies and earn $10 to $15 an hour and attend evening classes.

Airframe classes will include training in sheet metal, welding and aircraft engines. Propulsion courses will cover aircraft engines, propellers and fuel systems.

Upon completion, students will take tests to become FAA-certified aircraft mechanics, who earn $25 an hour. Experienced mechanics earn about $33 an hour.

"We need a trained work force to attract large companies so the community doesn't have to commute down the hill," Nick Parisi, dean of vocational education at Victor Valley College said during a Feb. 22 conference call. Aircraft maintenance training can serve as a springboard to other aviation careers, he said.

During the call, First District Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt pledged to seek additional funds for the program. His office announced the $500,000 appropriation on March 20.

The financial contribution may allow the college "to accelerate the FAA certification process to meet our program expectations. The registration process . . . will begin when we receive both FAA certification and the {community college} Chancellor's Office approval for the program," Parisi said in the March 20 release.

In February the college and the logistics airport launched an airframe curriculum for workers with aviation experience. The course prepares employees for the airframe and power plant exam. The course has 54 students including 42 employed by airport companies.

FedEx Corp. donated a Boeing 727 for the airframe and power plant program and Victor Valley Community College donated a smaller plane. The airport will provide classroom space. The consortium will need to build a hangar at the airport for aircraft maintenance instruction, said Jim Worsham, airport business development and marketing director.

Victorville Aerospace turned away three major projects from airlines and aircraft leasing companies due to the lack of necessary mechanics, Worsham said in February. The companies "wanted maintenance repair overhaul and they {Victorville Aerospace} did not have the work force," he said.

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