Wednesday, October 18th, 2023
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.
Wednesday, October 18th, 2023
E-commerce giant Amazon has joined widespread efforts to grow the aviation maintenance workforce pipeline. It has partnered with a recently launched Part 147 school in Lakeland, Florida to offer a career training program for workers interested in pursuing a new career path in MRO.
The partnership is part of Amazon’s Career Choice program, which enables its employees to learn new skills to launch career paths internally or in other industries. The program includes a vertical called Pathways, in which Amazon covers tuition costs to help employees earn certifications in areas such as technology, health care, transportation, mechanical and industrial systems, and business and administration systems.
Through Amazon’s Aircraft Maintenance Technician pathway, employees will train for FAA airframe and powerplant (A&P) certification at International AeroTech Academy, near Amazon’s air hub at Lakeland Linder International Airport. The hub, which opened in July 2020, employs more than 1,000 workers.
“The expansion of our skills training pathways to include aviation programs like the one with International AeroTech Academy is just one way we are continuing to invest in our team’s education and career aspirations, and help them move into in-demand technical jobs in the communities we operate,” says Tammy Thieman, global director of Career Choice at Amazon.
According to Steven Markhoff, president and CEO of International AeroTech Academy, Amazon approached the school in spring of 2023 as part of its efforts to establish the program in the area. The school launched a special night class for the program, which began classes on Oct. 2. Markhoff says 22 Amazon employees are currently enrolled in the night class and several have enrolled in the school’s latest day class, which began Sept. 11. The day class takes between 17-18 months to complete and the evening class will be 22 months long. At the end of the class, students will be eligible to test for A&P certifications.
“The response from Amazon employees in the area has been unbelievable. We have a long wait list of Amazon employees that are signing up now for our next class,” says Markhoff, noting that the school plans to run three evening classes per year.
Although Amazon Air’s air carrier partners maintain and operate its cargo aircraft, there is no fine print requiring participants in the Aircraft Maintenance Technician pathway to pursue employment at those companies. “There’s no requirement for these Amazon employees to go to work for an Amazon Air company,” says Markhoff. “I think part of what they’re seeing is this is a really good opportunity for their employees to put those that want one on a professional career track.”
Markhoff also stresses the importance of these types of programs to combat the aviation industry workforce shortage. He notes that the school was launched by a group of former airline executives in 2017 who foresaw the growing workforce shortage. In addition to its Part 147 maintenance training, it also offers flight training (operating under International Aero Academy), a Part 145 maintenance operation (International Aero Maintenance), an air carrier certificate and charter operations (International Aero Charters). Markhoff says the idea was to build a “complete holistic solution” for industry partners.
The school’s first class of Part 147 students graduated in October 2021, with many students receiving job offers six months prior. “Every week we have everyone from Lufthansa Technik to airlines to MROs coming to speak with students,” he says. “Everybody’s trying to recruit from this shrinking pool.”
Markhoff says International AeroTech Academy is now in discussions with several industry partners about other opportunities for students. In addition to the new program with Amazon, it also has partnerships in place with Spirit Airlines and Piper Aircraft. Students in its pilot training programs can apply to Spirit after reaching 500 hr. of flight time. If they pass the interview they receive a conditional letter of employment, after which they can begin employment with Spirit upon achieving 1,500 hr.
Meanwhile, the school’s students have an employment opportunity with Piper before they even begin classes. New students can interview with the aircraft manufacturer before classes start, and if they pass the interview they receive a conditional letter of employment.
Lindsay Bjerregaard is managing editor for Aviation Week’s MRO portfolio. Her coverage focuses on MRO technology, workforce, and product and service news for AviationWeek.com, Aviation Week Marketplace and Inside MRO.