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Building Career Connections for SEA Employees

May 2, 2024

Reuben Renz Gordolan first entered the world of aviation as a load planning and cargo warehouse agent at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA). He noticed the work aircraft mechanics were doing around him and opened his eyes to a high-demand career path he had never considered, with a good salary and benefits. 

It felt like serendipity when his wife received an email about the free Introduction to Aircraft Maintenance Technology (AMT) class offered at SEA Airport to airport employees through a partnership with Port Jobs, Port of Seattle, and South Seattle College. He applied and was accepted into the class.

For the past five years, this partnership has created a bridge for airport employees into South Seattle College’s aircraft maintenance technology program (called the Aviation Maintenance Airframe and Powerplant Certificate). Those who successfully complete the Intro to AMT class at SEA Airport are granted admission into South Seattle College’s two-year AMT program. To help alleviate the financial burden, Port Jobs offers a $1,000 Alaska Airlines-Airport University scholarship to each student who completes the Intro to AMT class and continues their AMT training.

Creating awareness and pathways for port-related careers is a key piece of the Port’s Workforce Development strategy. Learn about Port Jobs’ free services and resources to find a job at SEA Airport and provide career advancement support for airport employees.

A bridge to a new career

“It’s a wonderful bridge program,” said Stephanie Kellner, Airport University Program Manager with Port Jobs. “Students who go through the intro class at SEA are well-prepared for the intensive two-year AMT training program at the college. We are also bringing more women into the industry. It’s exciting that we are  seeing students graduate from the two-year program and getting jobs as aircraft mechanics. We want to be a springboard to new careers for airport employees.”

With a baby on the way and a full-time job, Gordolan began the intro course with a full plate. It was a low-risk way to find out if he was a good fit for the program. He was able to get a taste of the skills and workload required, available financial aid, and develop connections from Port Jobs and South Seattle College to help support him on his journey. “I probably wouldn’t have done the program if the intro class wasn’t an option,” Gordolan said. 

Teresa Romaneschi, Integrated Basic Education Skills and Training (I-BEST) coordinator at South Seattle College, teaches basic skills in reading, math, English language, computer literacy, and technology within the AMT program. She has helped teach previous Intro to AMT classes, partnering with a job training instructor from the South Seattle College AMT program to make sure students are getting the support they need while being introduced to job skills required to be an aircraft mechanic.

“It’s hard for people to contemplate how they could even make this program work for them — whether they would have the time and how they would pay for it,” she said. “This is a chance to dip your toe in and see what it would take. People are working hard and trying to support a family. It’s hard for them to imagine something that feels like a luxury to move their career forward.”  

Students form bonds in the introductory class that can support them through the entire two-year program.

“What’s really important is cohort building, the way students support each other once they are in the program,” Romaneschi said. “Even if they don’t understand everything perfectly they can see they have something to offer and they help each other find strengths as students.”

To gain experience while he was in the program, Gordolan got a job working at The Boeing Company on the assembly line. He moved into an aircraft mechanic role after three to six months, and later finished the program and received his transfer degree.

“It’s so rewarding when you work on planes,” Gordolan said. “No one thinks of the mechanics behind the planes, and it feels good to learn more and more about how they work. It’s fulfilling in that sense.”


A new career pathway

The Port, Port Jobs, and South Seattle College are partnering on a new opportunity that will be available for airport employees later this year — an Intro to Ground Support Equipment (GSE)  Mechanic course. The program prepares graduates to work on equipment that supports aircraft operations. 

The partnership mirrors the format of the Intro to AMT class and will offer a bridge for airport employees to enter South Seattle College’s two-year Diesel and Heavy Equipment Technology training program, which will launch one of the first GSE-focused training programs offered through a community technical college in the United States. The next Introduction to AMT and the first Introduction to GSE Mechanic classes will be offered at SEA this fall.

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