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Aviation Apprentice Partnership Creates Career Ladder in Rockford

America needs more aircraft mechanics and avionics technicians. Rockford is now home to one of the nation’s only registered apprenticeship programs aimed at filling that need. The U.S. Department of Labor and Rockford aircraft maintenance company Emery Air signed an agreement Wednesday to create a training pipeline for the career that’s in heavy demand.

Credit Susan Stephens / WNIJ
One of the jets being worked on at Emery Air in Rockford.

  Ronda Kliman specializes in apprenticeships and training for the Department of Labor. She told the crowd gathered at Emery Air's corporate jet facility at the Chicago/Rockford International Airport, “We really had some smart people sitting around the table, brainstorming and partnering together, resulting in the second in the U.S. registered apprenticeship program for the air frame and power plant mechanic.”

Emery Air has 60 mechanics in Rockford and is trying to hire 20 more. Curt Drumm is a spokesman for Emery and says it’s a very structured program that mirrors the curriculum at its partner, Rock Valley College. It's approved by the FAA. 

The program will take about two and a half years to complete, shorter for military veterans with experience. Apprentices start at $11 an hour and earn more as they acquire more skills. Emery is still accepting applications for this round of apprenticeships.

Susan is an award-winning reporter/writer at her favorite radio station. She's also WNIJ's Perspectives editor, Under Rocks contributor, and local host of All Things Considered.