Local education and aviation representatives gathered Monday at Chicago Executive Airport in Wheeling to discuss ways to add an aviation maintenance technician career pathway in Northwest Suburban High School District 214.
Several studies show a need for maintenance technicians due to increased air travel, so District 214 wants to provide students with hands-on experiences before they graduate.
"Our goal is for every student to discover their future," Associate Superintendent Lazaro Lopez said. "We're always looking for ways to expand the opportunities available to them to investigate career opportunities in fields that are growing."
The purpose of Monday's meeting involving representatives from District 214, Lewis University and Priester Aviation was to invite a broad sector of the community -- businesses, administrators and economic development entities -- to determine the level of interest in providing the pathway.
District 214 currently has a Project Lead the Way engineering program, which includes aerospace engineering as a unit. However, students who are serious about going into aviation say classes solely focused on the field would be crucial for future success.
"I think (these classes would) have gotten me more focused, propelled me to get my license faster and helped me gain more knowledge in the career," said Caleb Mayhorn, a Buffalo Grove High School senior interested in aviation.
Lewis University in Romeoville was sought out as a partner because of its proximity and 85-year history in providing aviation certifications and degrees. University officials see the benefit in giving students hands-on learning in a field struggling to find talent.
"To be able to offer a pathway to identify an interest in aviation early, to help them learn what skills and courses are needed to get access to great careers and job opportunities, we think would really help create a larger pipeline of the employees airlines are going to need in the future," said Raymond Kennelly, Lewis' senior vice president for strategic enrollment management, marketing and planning.
Representatives discussed ways the pathway could be implemented, including inviting Lewis professors to teach classes, flying students to campus to shadow professionals, building drones and having students participate in summer internships and camps.
Lopez said the next step is to continue working with Lewis University and Priester Aviation and finding internship opportunities for students.