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Aerospace Training Program’s Big Digs

Antelope Valley College opened last month its new aerospace teaching facility at Fox Field, the L.A. County-owned airport in Lancaster.Northrop Grumman Corp., with manufacturing operations at the Air Force’s Plant 42 in Palmdale, is a big supporter of the school. Kevin Mickey, sector vice president and general manager of military aircraft systems in Palmdale, called the school an important part of how the defense contractor attracts and retains talent in the Antelope Valley. Both Mickey and Frank Ramirez, a program manager with Northrop Grumman in Palmdale, were at the opening of the Fox Field facility on Feb. 19. Among the speakers at the event were Antelope Valley College President Ed Knudson and Maria Clinton, dean of career technical education at the college. “It will further enhance the collaboration that we have with both the college and the highly skilled workforce that we need that comes out of there,” Mickey said in an interview with the Business Journal.Among the aircraft that graduates of the programs work on are the unmanned drones Global Hawk and its variant, MQ-4C Triton, and maintenance on B-2 stealth bombers.“We have a myriad of programs that these students can work on,” Mickey said. “Some enter the program and almost immediately are put in for additional credentials that allow them to continue to move up.”  According to Ramirez, as of May of last year, about 1,500 students have graduated from the aircraft fabrication and assembly program since 2016 based on data provided by Goodwill of Southern California. Northrop has hired 1,281 of them, he added in an interview. The company hired about 900 new workers in Palmdale last year.“These are technicians working on products, so the skill sets that they are going to gain at the college are in direct relation to what is needed in our workforce,” Ramirez said.The facility consists of a 10,000-square-foot hangar, a composite lab, a computer lab and classroom and office space. The hangar had been set aside for a museum before being repurposed by the community college for its aeronautical and aviation technology, or Aero, program. It replaces a facility that had been located at Barnes Aviation, a company at the airport that provides flight training, aircraft maintenance and rentals and hangar space.With the new facility, the college can utilize the space for not only the Aero program but also for the aircraft fabrication and assembly program and the airframe manufacturing technology program. Clinton, dean of career technical education, said these programs have an amazing effect on students’ life and future.““Some students enroll directly from high school, others come out of homelessness and some are coming back to school for a change in career,” Clinton said in a statement.

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
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