Alamo Area Aerospace Academy offers real world, hands-on experience
By Chris Sasser
Texas A&M Transportation Institute
It’s 6 a.m. While the typical high-school upperclassman is snoozing away in bed, Jacob Treviño is already awake and catching a bus to his morning class at the Alamo Area Aerospace Academy. After a few hours of hands-on work on real engines and aircraft, he leaves again to catch the bus to attend regular high school classes. All before noon.
Such is the life of an Aerospace Academy student. And while the demanding program leaves almost no time for extracurricular activities, its graduates leave high school with half the credits they need for an associate’s degree, work experience, and—in some cases—a job offer from aerospace industry giants (and Port San Antonio tenants) Boeing or Lockheed Martin.
“You have to be motivated to be in this program, but it’s great to be associated with it, partly because of the connections you make while getting college credits,” said Treviño. “I want to succeed, and this program gives me a great opportunity to do that.”
The Aerospace Academy began in 2001 when Joseph Wilson, then the manager of staffing and development at Lockheed Martin, was seeking a solution to replace the company’s retiring work force. Wilson and his company recognized that training the next generation of skilled workers is fundamental to sustaining the aerospace activities that grew from seeds planted in the early days of aviation, grew to maturity during the era of Kelly Air Force Base, and now produce a new generation in the form of commercial/industrial aerospace at Port San Antonio.
Partnering with the aerospace sector, independent school districts, city hall and Alamo Colleges, a program was developed that would, they hoped, encourage teenagers to consider a career in the aerospace industry. Since its inception, the program has graduated over 300 students.
Students accepted into the competitive Aerospace Academy spend their junior and senior years of high school taking courses, at no charge, that count toward both a high-school diploma and a community-college degree. They also complete a paid summer internship hosted by an industry partner. The program has proved so successful, Wilson says, that about 20 percent of Lockheed Martin’s directly hired workforce now comes from the Aerospace Academy.
“We develop close relationships with these kids over their time here,” said Wilson. “I meet three times a year with every intern to go over their goals.”
Gene Bowman is the executive director of the Alamo Academies. In addition to the Aerospace Academy, there are three other vocational academies that specialize in health, information technology, and advanced technology and manufacturing.
“Our graduates are college proven and career ready by the time they finish high school,” said Bowman. “For our industry partners, the program is an essential part of growing their workforce.”
For more information about the Alamo Area Aerospace Academy, visit their website at http://www.alamo.edu/academies/aaaa/ .