April 29, 2015

Monday, April 27, 2015



Staff Writer

Looking for new talent to maintain aircraft, the Federal Aviation Administration teamed up with Nashua Community College to bring city high school students to NCC’s aviation technology center for a hands-on field trip.

NCC aviation technology professor Bob Donadio said the goal of last week’s “Walk in My Boots” field trip is to find high school students interested in the field.

“Our primary objective is to find a workforce for the future,” Donadio said.

College students worked alongside high schoolers as they practiced using tools in the aviation technology shop.

“Honestly, the field trip was a lot better than I thought. I didn’t think we’re going to be able to try something,” said Cameron O’Loan, a junior at Nashua High School South.

The group of five high school students from Nashua High School North and South went through a practice application and interview process conducted by a panel of FAA employees before making it to the field trip.

“Each of our teachers asked the class which students were interested, and we filled out the paper and we had to get interviewed by three members of the FAA. It was the first time I ever got interviewed like that,” said South junior Kevin Erickson.

Donadio said there are about 20 students in the avionics program now – half underclassmen, half upperclassmen.

Anthony Janco, an FAA aviation safety inspector senior adviser, and Julie Seltsam-Wilps, aviation and space education program manager, coordinated the field trip with the college and high schools.

“We try to promote aviation careers, all aviation careers, aeronautical, aerospace careers, anything in STEM – science, technology, engineering and math,” Seltsam-Wilps said.

She said the aviation industry comprises many career paths, and used a typical commercial flight as an example.

“You have no idea how many jobs it took to get you from Point A to Point B. This is why we do the program. We try to expose them to the industry,” she said.

Janco said aviation technology training is an alternative to a typical four-year degree program.

“It’s for the kid who could have gone to college – the kid who could have gone to Harvard. That’s who I want working on my airplane,” Seltsam-Wilps said.

She said the field has potential for upward mobility, with some companies sponsoring additional education and training for employees.

“You can turn wrenches the entire time, or you can move up,” she said.

Janco said much like the rest of the skilled labor market, trained avionics technicians are becoming harder to find.

“There was a big influx after Vietnam – people went back into the field. That’s not happening anymore.”

Janco, an Air Force veteran, said the FAA is making strides to facilitate Iraq and Afghanistan veterans moving into civilian avionics work as well, but that demand for workers remains high and experts predict a severe shortage by 2030.

According to an August 2014 edition of Aircraft Maintenance Technology magazine, 76 percent of readers are 51 years or older, and the Department of Employment and Economic Development estimates that the aviation industry will have more than 1 million job openings in the next 10 years.

The high school outreach seems to make a difference, with one or two students out of each field trip moving on to study aviation technology, Janco said.

“I think a couple of kids today got the bug. They might get hooked,” he said.

Because NCC is an FAA-approved aviation maintenance technician school, graduating from the aviation program satisfies the experience requirement for the FAA aviation mechanics certificate.

Aside from the “Walk in My Boots” field trips, the FAA hosts summer camps for middle and high school students interested in aviation career called the ACE Academy, with the closest location in Bedford, Mass.

Tina Forbes can be reached at 594-6402, [email protected] or @Telegraph_TinaF.