WILMINGTON — What may likely be a lifelong career in aviation for Garret Wood took off within days of his graduation from the Laurel Oaks Career Campus Aviation Maintenance Program in 2015.
Wood interviewed with Airborne Maintenance and Engineering Services (AMES) during his senior year, and took a position there as an airplane mechanic on June 1. He didn’t even have to alter his commute much since his Laurel Oaks classroom in the Corwin Nixon Aviation Center sits off the runway of the nearby Wilmington Air Park, where AMES is a major tenant and leading employer.
The announcement in the fall of 2015 that AMES has signed another major maintenance contract with Delta bodes well for stability in Wood’s job and potential careers for current and future Laurel Oaks aviation maintenance students who want to stay in the immediate area.
For those who want to relocate, AMES has opportunities in Florida and there are jobs around the world for graduates who want to work in aviation or related businesses that require automotive or mechanical skills, according to David Angus, aviation maintenance program instructor at Laurel Oaks.
“These kids are so far ahead of me at the same age,” said Angus, who started his lifelong career in aviation after high school by joining the military.
Wood, who became interested in the program as an eighth-grader at Clinton-Massie when he took a tour, has no regrets. “The fact that there is always something to learn and you do it yourself, that you are just not reading about it in a book,” Wood said. “We had great instructors and formed new friendships. I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
“This is certainly not woodshop,” Angus emphasizes. “Students have access to a couple million dollars’ worth of equipment and seniors have to do a complete electrical wiring for an airplane.”
Laurel Oaks students save thousands of dollars and have a head start on college courses in the same or similar fields. Laurel Oaks and Southern State Community College — located on the other side of one of the Wilmington Air Park runways — share an aviation lab, and Wood is attending classes there to earn an associate’s degree and get his power plant license.
Angus thinks that today’s aviation students are also at an advantage because many of his peers who got into the field during the Vietnam War era are already retired or heading that way.
Like nearly every industry, jobs are dependent on the economy but there always seem to be opportunities in the airplane maintenance field, says John Maddan, maintenance manager for Ameriflight, a charter and cargo service located at the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport.
Maddan said his company is always accepting resumes for a variety of aviation maintenance jobs and knows that many Laurel Oaks students are immediately eligible for them upon graduation. “I think they have a good program,” said Maddan, who formerly worked with Angus at Comair.
Entry-level positions start around $18.50 an hour with other jobs topping out around $33 an hour, he added.
Angus said 14 students graduated from his program last year. A half-dozen of them enrolled at Southern State, several enlisted in branches of the military to further their training, and at least one took a divergent path into nursing.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, aspiring aircraft mechanics and service technicians can improve their job prospects by possessing an air frame and power plant (A&P) certificate and a bachelor’s degree.
Thirteen juniors and 18 seniors make up this year’s class, the majority from Clinton, Fayette and Highland County schools, though a few come from sister Great Oaks Campus feeder schools in Greater Cincinnati.
Great Oaks, which specializes in career development and technical training for high school students and adults in southwest Ohio, has campuses in Wilmington (Laurel Oaks), Sharonville (Scarlet Oaks), Dent (Diamond Oaks) and Milford (Live Oaks).
Great Oaks offers the chance for high school students to prepare for careers and college and for adults to get training and certification to begin a new career or advance in a current career.
Student applications are being accepted now for all programs at Great Oaks Career Campuses in the 2015-16 school year. For more information or to apply for any program, go to www.greatoaks.com.