LAKELAND, Fla. — Amazon keeps expanding its footprint at Lakeland Linder International Airport with several flights in and out every day now.
But to keep those airplanes flying, the company realizes it needs pilots and airplane mechanics — both of which are in short supply and high demand. So now, the mega-retailer is working with a local tech school to help turn Amazon workers into aircraft maintenance technicians.
“I think it is incredibly forward-thinking of Amazon to do it,” said Steven Markhoff, who owns the International Aerotech Academy in Lakeland. Markhoff says Amazon first approached him with the idea a few months back.
The two-year paid tuition program will train Amazon workers to become aircraft maintenance technicians.
“They asked us if we could do a night class, and we said yes. And with that, it developed into what we just launched, which is our first class this week,” Markhoff said.
Not long ago, Amazon, which needs to keep planes flying for business, realized a shortage of pilots and airplane mechanics was creating delays.
“The pilots get all of the thunder and glory. But the airline mechanics – the aircraft can’t move without them,” said John Detrick, International AeroTech Academy’s director and chief instructor. “In fact, there are some airlines now having to reduce their schedule because of a lack of maintenance.”
Through Amazon’s Career Choice program, everyone from basic fulfillment workers on up can apply.
Workers do have to keep working at Amazon during the two-year process, but they don’t have to commit to working for the retail giant once they graduate.
“When they graduate, they will never be without a career. And I didn’t say job. I said professional career,” Markhoff said. “And they can go anywhere want. There are job openings for them anywhere in the country.”
International Aerotech just started teaching its first class of about 25 Amazon workers. Most of them take courses at night.
Leaders figure by the end of the year; the number will be close to 80 enrolled.
“A lot of them see the big jet parked behind the freight loading doors, and they’re saying wow, that looks cool. Let me do this,” Detrick said. “And they find out they can.”
International AeroTech Academy calls it a win-win.
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Amazon workers can now place themselves on a high-demand career path likely to change their lives, and Amazon itself is adding more aircraft maintenance technicians to the work pool, helping them to keep flying efficiently.