According to Career Source Brevard, more than one-third of Florida’s aerospace employees work in Brevard County.
This week’s Getting Results Award recipients have a track record of providing qualified workers to aerospace companies, and they’re putting it into practice in high school classrooms like no other.
Eau Gallier High School’s campus offers some things that other high schools can’t offer. A 7,500 square foot airplane hangar with a Mitsubishi Diamond 1A business jet and a Piper PA-28 parked underneath.
Airplanes, along with many other educational materials, make up the Aviation Manufacturing and Assembly Program.
As soon as you step into the workshop, you can hear the sound of a choir. Air compressors are running and students are busy bending, cutting, and riveting sheet metal with hand tools.
Instructor Bill McInnish, a 22-year veteran of the Navy and Coast Guard, developed the program and created the curriculum nine years ago after recognizing a workforce shortage in the aerospace and defense industry.
“Everyone in the industry right now is talking about skilled labor. That’s the hardest thing to come by right now,” McInnish said. “The aerospace and airplane mechanics in this country are old and gray, just like me. We have to bring the next generation along.”
This course has become the standard for schools across the state and nation who want to replicate his success and create their own programs.
“We had a lot of people here. The governor was there, the senator was there,” McInnish said. “People like coming here. This is pretty, isn’t it? It’s not a normal sight to see children working on airplanes.”
Mr. McInnish said it has been successful, with all students who complete the course achieving success after graduation.
“These kids are going to get jobs. These kids are going to college. We’ve had a 100 percent placement rate for the past three years and we’re aiming for 100 percent placement this year,” Macchi said. Nish said. “We have kids at SpaceX, Blue Origin and United Launch Systems. Our kids are in every industry in Brevard County and beyond.”
Senior Sheila Dunn wants to work in air traffic control. She made this decision after attending a class field trip to Melbourne International Airport.
“I’m really happy that we’re the only school that has this in place,” Dunn said.
Scott Ferguson, also a fourth-year student, said there is a waiting list for admission to aviation courses.
“It’s a tough class. It’s the only program that does this, so you’ll be competing against hundreds of people from all over Florida,” he said.
Senior Conrad Timmer plans to study aerospace engineering. He said what he’s learning in the classroom and in the store is helping him prepare for the future.
“Having the opportunity to come here for this program has been very beneficial. It has deepened my knowledge and understanding of aerospace, airplanes, and their capabilities,” Timmer said. “I couldn’t imagine a better teacher for this class than Mr. Mack.”
Ms. McInish has spent countless hours promoting the class and lobbying for funding. He was named Teacher of the Year by the Aerospace Forces Association.
“I’ve won a lot of awards and done a lot of great things in the military,” McInnish said. “But in terms of my educational career, I would say this is one of the pinnacles.”
McInnish said he plans to continue teaching as long as he is healthy.
“One of the questions my wife always asks me is, ‘Why are you still working?'” McInnish said with a smile. “I work because I love these kids. And not only do I love kids, I love seeing them succeed.”
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