Aviation college recruiting local adults, high school students for mechanics programs

Published 12:58 am Thursday, January 12, 2017

There are 16 students enrolled in the Alabama Aviation College’s recently reopened Andalusia campus.

Instructor Michael Barton has his work cut out for him after the program was dormant for a year.

Those 16 students are dual enrollment students from local high schools in the county and from Brantley.

“They receive high school and college credit,” Barton said.

Barton said the program is quite the commitment for high school students because it requires them to attend school earlier or later than the traditional high school model.

Barton said he is working on recruiting new students, and can facilitate up to 25 students in each class.

“It takes face time,” he said. “I’ve been going to the schools, which helps big time. I appreciate the superintendents and the principals letting me do it.

Barton said when the program began on the Andalusia campus in 2006 there were 14 students, when it became dormant for a year, there were 58 students enrolled.

Barton said a student who begins the course in the 10th grade and attends during the summer could complete their certification while in high school.

“We have had a student at Pleasant Home who had to wait until she turned 18 to take her certification exam,” Barton said.

The pay for those who earn the certification, he said, varies greatly with the minimum being $18 per hour.

“Fort Rucker starts around $23 per hour,” he said.

Barton said he hopes they will soon be able to get their last class OK’d so that students will no longer have to travel to Ozark to complete their airframe certification.

Dual enrollment students enroll free of charge, thanks to workforce development grant funding.

To be eligible, a student must have a 2.5 unweighted grade point average, parental and school approval.

Seniors who enter the program are required to have a certain ACT score or take a placement test.

This semester there is no adult class because there wasn’t enough interest to make the class.

There must be 10 students in the class for it to make.

CCEDC has anted up $10,000 for adults for scholarships.

Barton also commended Andalusia City Schools for transporting dual enrollment students to the facility.

Andalusia Mayor Earl Johnson said local leaders in economic development have spent the last 20 years to transform the economy from being agriculture-textile focused to adding manufacturing and tech-based jobs.

“We spend millions and millions educating the kids,” he said. “Fewer than 10 percent come back to Covington County. That’s not a very good return on our investment. The reason we aren’t getting them back is because they are going where they can find career opportunities.”

Aviation is just one of the ways local officials plan to keep the next generation coming back.