As an MV-22 Osprey crew chief and mechanic in the U.S. Marines, Chris Porter was able to do two things he had always loved: work with his hands and solve mechanical problems. Now transitioning into civilian life, he has an opportunity to transform his experience and skill into a high-prestige career, thanks to a program offered by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
“My true passion for working on aircraft was discovered while serving,” said Porter, “and it is something that I wish to continue doing as a veteran.”
The Aviation Maintenance SkillBridge course is an intensive nine-week program that trains transitioning military, veterans and eligible military spouses in aviation maintenance and connects them to aerospace industry partners who can offer them lucrative and exciting careers.
The program will launch on August 5 at the Embry-Riddle Worldwide campus at the Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) New River, near Camp LeJeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina. Dignitaries attending a ribbon-cutting ceremony to take place at 9 a.m. include U.S. Marine Corps Colonel Curtis Ebitz, MCAS New River commander; Justin Blum, senior human resources manager for Pratt & Whitney’s West Palm Beach location; Ryan D. Goertzen, vice president of aviation maintenance workforce development at AAR; and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Worldwide Chancellor Dr. John R. Watret.
“This inaugural cohort of SkillBridge participants is the first of many planned at locations throughout the country,” Watret said, adding that Embry-Riddle has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the U.S. Department of Defense and is looking to expand the program to five to seven additional sites. “We look forward to establishing a secure path for former service members to career success in a booming industry.”
The participants in the first group are guaranteed an interview with industry partners Pratt & Whitney, an aerospace manufacturer with customers in 180 countries, or AAR Corp., an aerospace and defense company with more than 6,000 employees in over 20 countries. Participants will also get career coaching and help with writing resumes and will experience activities designed to help prepare them for new careers with the industry partners.
Chris Curtin, Pratt & Whitney executive director of talent, inclusion & engagement, said his company has a long history of hiring veterans and their family members.
“The SkillBridge program gives us another great opportunity to continue hiring talented service members into our organization,” Curtin said.
Brian Sartain, AAR senior vice president of repair and engineering services, also explained his company's eagerness to hire the SkillBridge participants.
"The unparalleled experience and knowledge base veterans gain in the military lay a strong foundation in pursuing aviation certification," said Sartain. "Veterans are equipped with the technical skills and focus we look for in candidates, and that is why AAR is a top military-friendly employer. AAR will be looking to hire the veterans who graduate from the SkillBridge Program.”
Participants in the program are not required to have an aviation background. Program organizers said diesel and truck mechanics, heavy equipment operators, gas turbine operators and others with demonstrated mechanical aptitude can qualify.
"Even if they've never touched an airplane, we can take them from zero to having that foundational knowledge to be successful when they enter the industry," said Dr. Kenneth Witcher, dean of the Embry-Riddle Worldwide College of Aeronautics. "The industry needs this program, Embry-Riddle is happy to provide the knowledge, and the transitioning service members really benefit."
The program includes six courses, providing broad knowledge of general aeronautics, airframe systems and power plant systems. All of the courses can be counted toward an Embry-Riddle associate or bachelor’s degree in aviation maintenance or aeronautics.
Porter, who will start working toward his SkillBridge Aviation Maintenance Technology Certificate as soon as the program begins, said he is confident the experience will be valuable to him.“Not only is the SkillBridge certificate important, but the name attached to it, ‘Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University,’ shows the caliber of the education and training,” Porter said.