US MRO specialist West Star Aviation has launched the West Star Aviation Academy (WSAA), its innovative solution to addressing the aircraft maintenance technician shortage. WSAA enables more women, men and transitioning military members to enter the aviation workforce by streamlining the old apprenticeship model and removing the financial barrier to obtaining the necessary skills and education to become a work-ready and licensed aircraft maintenance technician (AMT).
The first WSAA cohort will include 25 apprentices who will spend nearly eight months months learning and earning wages and benefits through a full-time educational curriculum, coupled with hands-on practical training, mentoring and job shadowing in preparation for the test for their FAA licence. WSAA will be powered by Southwestern Illinois College through its Part-147 FAA approved curriculum and will be taught in a designated West Star learning hangar that incorporates the newly developed Choose Aerospace curriculum, along with proprietary West Star technical training. WSAA will accelerate the skill development and abilities required to certify new technicians more quickly than the industry's traditional 18-30 month on-the-job apprenticeship programme.
“We are very excited to offer a branded training programme leveraging our community educational partners to provide a direct career pathway for those aspiring to be an AMT,” says CEO Jim Rankin. “For apprentices, it's an opportunity to make a living while learning a highly skilled technical trade in less than a year. For West Star Aviation, WSAA will help ensure that we continually have a strong pipeline of skilled and licensed technicians to deliver industry-leading MRO services to business aviation customers worldwide.”
After graduating from WSAA, newly licensed AMTs will put their learned knowledge into practice alongside senior technicians working on in-service aircraft. AMTs will continue receiving additional learning and training opportunities to continually grow their skills.
“WSAA ensures a complete standard of formal education, practical hands-on and on-the-job training to enhance the work-readiness of new technicians, while substantially increasing our access to qualified talent to meet our ongoing customer needs for service work,” says Katie Johnson, vice president human resources.
WSAA will be piloted at the company's East Alton, Illinois facility with the first round of apprentices anticipated to start in January 2024.