The full name is George T. Baker Aviation Technical College, but don’t let the “college” part fool you. More than a third of the students are high school kids, studying to become aviation maintenance technicians.
It’s a Miami-Dade County Public Schools magnet school, attracting students from all parts of the county. They spend half their day at their home schools taking regular courses, and the other half at Baker.
If it has anything at all to do with aircraft, the Baker students are practicing on it, learning how to fix it, taking it apart and putting it back together again, all the latest technology included.
“And our students get to work on all that equipment that’s exactly the equipment they’re going to be using, working on, when they go into the field,” principal Ciro Hidalgo says.
That includes big commercial jets.
They have a former American Airlines MD-80, with students able to work on its landing gear, engines, and cockpit instrumentation.
Here’s the biggest attraction to this magnet program: graduates are snapped up by the industry, making salaries that start at about $70,000.
“We get calls and emails from companies that want to hire 10, 20 mechanics at a time, the growth of aviation has created a tremendous need for mechanics, in fact, a lot of our students are even hired before they finish school,” Hidalgo explained.
There are more mechanic jobs than applicants in the industry right now, and the demand is expected to increase as mechanics retire.
The curriculum is the same for the high school kids as it is for the adults at Baker, and the training must be done to exacting standards. That’s why it’s supervised by the Federal Aviation Administration.
“It is critical, it’s critical to do the job right, there’s no room for failure in aviation.”
The high school students graduate with 60 hours of college credit, all of it free. Some of them go on to complete bachelor’s degrees in aviation management or engineering, and since the school is right across the street from Miami International Airport, they are reminded of their destiny, and the school’s history, every day.
“Almost every aircraft that flies from Miami International and through South Florida gets worked on by George Baker former students,” Hidalgo said.
These kids will land, Hidalgo says, in a successful career, propelled by their experience at Baker.