School counselors tour Sowela aviation department and hangars

By By Lance Traweek / American Press

More than 25 high school counselors

from across Calcasieu Parish on Thursday toured Sowela Technical

Community College’s aviation

department and hangars at Chennault International Airport.

The tour was organized so counselors

could share with students the opportunities available in the growing

local aviation industry.

Greg Dellinger with AAR Corp. said the tour connects economic opportunity with education.

“With possible shortages of mechanics and pilots looking ahead, the talent requirements will become urgent fast,” Dellinger

said.

He thinks 100,000 mechanics will be needed globally in the coming years.

Matthew Guidry, program coordinator for aviation maintenance technology at Sowela, said the two-year program prepares students

for Federal Aviation Administration certification in airframe and power plant mechanics.

Charles Dalgleish, Chennault board member, said these are “good-paying, high-quality jobs” that do not require a four-year

degree. A certified, skilled aviation mechanic could make $50,000-$60,000 per year.

On the heels of AAR’s move to Chennualt in August, Sowela received $3.7 million to upgrade and expand its aviation program.

The department has about 60 students and three teachers, and they are looking to “double that capacity,” Guidry said.

“We’re doing well and looking to expand and get more students, so that we can provide the need of the incoming industries.”

Sowela industrial technology department head David Lafargue said his department aims to “bridge the gap” with secondary and

post-secondary education.

Lafargue will visit schools in the nation to get the best practices and incorporate them into the program at Sowela.

“We want to take what they have and what works best,” he said. “We will shoot for that in our expansion and utilizing our

funds.”