POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. — AUG. 4, 2022 — Dutchess Community College saw its first cohort of graduates from its new Aviation Maintenance Technician program take flight last week. Fifteen alumni earned their certificates, with several of them receiving job offers before they finished the program.

“These students are joining a job market that is eager to hire qualified professionals,” said Program Coordinator Genna Suraci. “They’ve had offers ranging from cargo companies, flight schools and fixed space operators (i.e., repair shops) to private and commercial operators such as Delta Airlines. 

“We’re extremely proud of this first cohort of Aviation Maintenance technicians who are now cleared to start their careers in record time,” said DCC President Peter Grant Jordan. “With sheer grit and determination, this group defied the ravages of COVID-19 and beat the odds. They are now bound for an industry that desperately needs their newly acquired skills.”

This demand is being driven by market forces such as industry growth, a spike in retirements following the pandemic, and evolving industry regulations, which include new curriculum designed to meet present-day standards. DCC’s newest alumni received starting wages as high as $25 per hour and salaries of $55,000 annually.

“Our economy will be richer for this injection of talent and the lives of their families more prosperous. However, none of this would be possible were it not for the broad engagement of a community (from DCC’s Board of Trustees, faculty and staff to county and state legislators) that saw a workforce need and brought the resources together to fill that gap,” added President Jordan.

Suraci is especially proud to see the diversity in this first cohort, a characteristic that holds true across the industry. Several ethnicities were represented among this inaugural group and a wide range of ages – including one student who was 62. DCC’s second cohort, set to graduate this December, includes similar diversity, while its third cohort will include the program’s first female registrants.

“The aviation industry has always been on the forefront of diversity and inclusion, and that’s been my experience throughout my career,” attested Suraci, who was herself a trailblazer as a female mechanic when she entered the profession five decades ago. Today’s workforce is 10% female, she estimates, adding that the industry at-large has long welcomed women, LGBTQ community members and other diverse groups, and consistently been among the pioneering industries in such initiatives.

“This is truly a career where everyone is welcome, so long as you have the knowledge and abilities to perform the work,” Suraci explained. “The training is rigorous because the stakes are so high, and the industry looks for talent first. That’s what always wins out.”

Those interested in enrolling in this fall’s cohort can still do so – if they act quickly. The next session begins August 15. To learn more about the program, tour DCC’s new, $16 million hangar and education center at the Hudson Valley Regional Airport, and apply, visit sunydutchess.edu/aviationtech or call (845) 431-8010.