West Star Aviation Academy (WSAA), has just been launched as a solution to address the Aircraft Maintenance Technician shortage. WSAA will enable more women, men, and transitioning military members to enter the aviation workforce by streamlining the old apprenticeship model and removing the financial barrier to obtain necessary skills and education to become a work-ready and licensed Aircraft Maintenance Technician (AMT). WSAA will be piloted at the East Alton, Illinois, facility with the first round of apprentices anticipated to start in January 2024.

The first WSAA cohort will include hiring 25 apprentices who will spend 7.5 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 apprentices to test for their FAA license. WSAA will be powered by Southwestern Illinois College through their 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 believes it 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 program.

“We are very excited to offer a branded training program leveraging our community educational partners to provide a direct career pathway for those aspiring to be an AMT,” said Jim Rankin, CEO, West Star Aviation. “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 knowledge learned 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 training, 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,” said Katie Johnson, Vice President Human Resources, West Star Aviation.

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