OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The pandemic has created all kinds of challenges in education but for future aircraft mechanics who need hands-on experience, it has caused significant delays in their dreams taking flight.
This week, 14 students are set to graduate seven months later than originally planned.
It’s an in-demand field, filling jobs at Tinker Air Force Base and beyond.
“Some of them will go and maintain the regional jets that fly out of Will Rogers. Some of them go up to the north part of the city and do some government contracting work,” said site director Michael Branch. “We have some working on projects with other countries.”
But last year, their program was grounded due to COVID-19.
“A large part of our program has to be taught in-person and that’s regulated by the FAA,” Branch said.
Once they were able to pick back up, Metro Tech had lectures on Zoom.
Tests, quizzes, projects and lab skills were done in-person, socially distant with masks and heavy sanitization.
Students graduating this week have waited for this moment seven months longer than normal, navigating the challenges of the last year.
“It’s not just been COVID,” said Branch. “We had an ice storm in October, we had a two-week snowstorm in January.”
The need for aircraft technicians is expected to rise in the next five years and with that, so will salaries, which start around $19-an-hour with the median salary in the U.S. standing at about $65,000.
“They use the median because once you get to a certain point and reach certain positions, the salary is astronomical,” Branch said.
That’s just one of the benefits attracting students to the program.
“We’re finding success with the high school students because they can start when they’re 19 and retire pretty early,” said Branch.
In some positions, that comes after getting to see the world.
“To me, that’s a bigger perk than anything, being able to travel,” Branch said.
The program starts in January and in July every year.
For more information on the program, click here.