Internships and job opportunities await PCC students enrolled in aviation program

COURTESY PHOTO - Marshall Pryor, center, works with students at PCC Rock Creeks aviation maintenance program. The community college has a new partnership with Delta Air Lines.Officials with Portland Community College's aviation program are flying high this month, after finalizing an agreement with Delta Air Lines that will see local students fast-tracked to careers in the aviation industry.

PCC has partnered with the world's largest airline to help teach its aviation maintenance technology program at its Rock Creek campus near Hillsboro.

According to PCC spokeswoman Janis Nichols, the airline has agreed to provide the school with curriculum, internships, parts and more, in what Nichols called a "major shift" in how the airline will interact with the college.

Delta operates a maintenance station at Portland International Airport, and Marshall Pryor, the head of PCC's aviation maintenance program, said the school will work closely with Delta employees to offer internships and other opportunities to students.

"That internship will basically be a job interview," Pryor said. "Delta realizes that the way they make local connections is through training organizations like us."

Delta looked at dozens of aviation maintenance schools to partner with, according to Michael Mackey, manager for Delta's TechOps Training program.

"Delta will contribute aviation maintenance eLearning modules, technical data, aircraft parts, and technical training for instructional staff, all designed to raise the awareness of airline maintenance operations and to better prepare the future employees of Delta Air Lines and the airline industry," Mackey said.

A new generation of airline pilots and technicians is badly needed. More than 648,000 new airline mechanics will be needed globally over the next 20 years, according to a report released by aircraft manufacturer Boeing last year. In addition, the industry needs as many as 637,000 new airline pilots and more than 839,000 new cabin crew.

By 2020, nearly one-third of Delta's workforce will be eligible for retirement, Pryor said. The drop in skilled pilots and mechanics has many facets, Pryor said, including an influx of pilots and mechanics after the Vietnam War, as veterans transitioned from military service to civilian careers. Those employees are now reaching retirement age.

The partnership between PCC and Delta will help train new students for the next decade, Pryor said.

"It's a long-term partnership," Pryor said. "They know they need to be a part of the solution."

Airlines across the country are looking to become more involved with training new pilots and technicians, Pryor said.

"As personnel demand increases over the next two decades, the aviation industry will need to find innovative solutions to keep pace with training requirements," the Boeing report read.

In 2016, Seattle-based Horizon Airlines began offering tuition stipends and job opportunities for students enrolled at Hillsboro Aero Academy at the Hillsboro Airport.

Portland Community College currently has 75 students in it aviation maintenance program, with plans to grow to 100 students under the new Delta agreement, Pryor said.

Pryor, who graduated from PCC's aviation program in 1972, said that programs like the one with Delta will help the entire aviation industry.

"If the tide rises, everybody's boats will float higher," Pryor said. "Not everybody from our program will go to work at Delta, but if they start at Horizon or Alaska Airlines and get some experience, that helps everybody."

By Geoff Pursinger
Editor, Hillsboro Tribune
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