California Grant Will Fund Effort to Train Aviation Mechanics

VICTORVILLE - Good jobs at good wages.

That was the message Thursday when the Victor Valley Aviation Education Consortium announced it was getting a $75,000 grant from the San Bernardino County Workforce Investment Board to help fund a new program for aviation mechanics.

Seventeen aviation-related companies at the Southern California Logistics Airport will be working with Victor Valley College to train 150 to 300 mechanics a year to meet local needs.

"We want to help provide the work force needed," said Barbara Halsey, director of the Workforce Investment Board. "We want to help build a world-class training institute for aviation careers up here."

Brad Mitzelfelt, who represents the 1st District on the county Board of Supervisors, pledged whatever support he could offer for the program.

"We will be seeking to provide additional money as needed," he said. "I think this is a great thing that will help turn this into a leading job center."

The program will help kids straight out of high school, who will work four hours a day for $10-$15 per hour and then go to classes in the evening.

Once they've completed the certification program, they'll get an immediate raise of $10 an hour and begin working full time.

Jim Worsham of SCLA, who has been in the aviation business for more than 50 years, said the biggest problem at the airport is a lack of aviation-trained people to fill jobs.

"We have recruited all the trained aviation people we know how to get," he said. "We need maybe 300 new people a year."

Phil Cothran, a member of the WIB, called the program "the kind of template the WIB has been looking for," involving companies in a growth industry that can help provide long-term prosperity in the county.

Instructor John Hardell described the program, which involves 1,900 hours of instruction - 400 in general areas like math and sciences and the other 1,500 divided between the airframe and the power plant.

"Our official date to get going is February 2008," he said. "But we're hopeful we can get going by the third or fourth quarter of this year."

Nick Parisi, dean of vocational education at Victor Valley College, talked about what the jobs could mean to the High Desert.

"This is definitely a growth area," he said. "We need these jobs so our community doesn't have to commute down the hill all their lives."

Experienced mechanics can top out at $32 to $33 an hour, but Parisi pointed out that some mechanics have used the job as a springboard to other, more lucrative careers in aviation.

All in all, $500,000 is needed to start the program.

It'll be there, Worsham said. "We're going to get the money and we're going to train students."

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