Oaks aviation program helps careers take off


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Visitors to Laurel Oaks, like these recent car show participants, often see planes next to the school’s parking lot.

Visitors to Laurel Oaks, like these recent car show participants, often see planes next to the school’s parking lot.


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Most career-technical high school programs give graduates a head start on both college and careers, but few take them farther, faster than the Aviation Maintenance Technician program at Laurel Oaks Career Campus.

By the time they finish high school, students can earn their FAA Airframe certification as well as up to 55 college credit hours, or nearly two years of college credit. If they choose to begin working right away, numerous jobs in the Wilmington area and around the country are waiting.

The Aviation Maintenance program makes a great first impression. It’s taught in a hangar filled with planes, engines and equipment next to the Wilmington Air Park. There, high school students can quickly begin working on machines they may have only seen in the air before.

Experienced FAA-certified technicians like Scot Pembleton teach the program. Pembleton, who came to Great Oaks in 2018 after 25 years in the aviation industry, is now preparing the next generation of technicians.

“I believe this is one of the best programs Great Oaks has,” Pembleton said. “Students can leave school with an FAA certification and have a guaranteed job waiting. The money that can be earned and the opportunities offered in this career field are incredible.”

The Aviation Maintenance Technician program and the Laurel Oaks campus are perfectly located to help provide skilled professionals as Wilmington enjoys a boom in aviation-related careers. For instance, Airborne Maintenance and Engineering Services (AMES) is located right next door.

“Students can come to us at the end of their junior year and start working right away,” said AMES HR Generalist Eric Salyers.”

Being in the neighborhood also gives Salyers the chance to meet with students and answer their questions about the aviation industry — a valuable benefit as students think about their futures.

AMES hires Aviation Maintenance Technician grads as well as those who complete the Industrial Diesel Mechanics and Automotive Collision programs. Regardless of the skills or training, though, what’s critical in the aviation industry is mental fortitude along with a willingness to learn.

“We need those who, no matter how much experience they have, learn as much as they can every day,” said Salyers. “You have to be part engineer, mechanic and researcher. This isn’t just backyard mechanics — this is cool stuff.”

Salyers said AMES is a valuable place to begin a career.

“People are always shocked at the size and scope of what we do here,” he said. “We’re an aviation powerhouse, and provide a level of experience both for customers and employees that they can’t get anywhere else.”

Which puts Laurel Oaks Career Campus and the Aviation Maintenance Technician program, in the midst of the growing aviation industry in Wilmington, in a good spot.

“We appreciate the partnership we have with Laurel Oaks,” said Salyers. “We’re not going anywhere. This is a great time to be in aviation.”

Students from any of Great Oaks’ 36 affiliated school districts can apply for the Aviation Maintenance Technician program at Laurel Oaks. Limited space is still available for fall 2019 for incoming juniors. For more information or to apply, contact Bill Davis at davisw@greatoaks.com or 937-382-1411.

Submitted by Jon Weidlich, director of community relations, Great Oaks Career Campuses.

Visitors to Laurel Oaks, like these recent car show participants, often see planes next to the school’s parking lot.
https://www.timesgazette.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/33/2019/04/web1_Laurelplanes.jpgVisitors to Laurel Oaks, like these recent car show participants, often see planes next to the school’s parking lot. Submitted photo

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