TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Desert View High School students are making plane parts for actual commercial jetliners.
Hi-Tech Machining & Engineering is partnering with students in the Precision Manufacturing Class at the Sunnyside Unified School District school.
There are estimates that about half of machinists in the United States are 55 or older and that means retirement.
Add to that no pipeline of up and coming workers ready to take their place.
Businesses in Tucson and across the country complain that they have the jobs, but young people need the skills.
That's why Desert View High School and is giving students a head start in an industry where the sky's the limit.
It's an idea that manufacturing companies wish would take off across the country.
In the Desert View shop Jose Luis Lizarraga, lll, is checking the airplane part, a foot or mounting bracket for an oil separator
"And right there would be 451/1000 which is just within tolerance," Lizarraga said.
When you're building parts for airplanes, every measurement must be precise.
The idea of training high school students for high-skill, high-paying jobs meets many needs, including creating that skilled worker pipeline.
Desert View students learn design, drafting and machining.
They build tools they need.
One tool, a specialized wrench, normally would cost $50.
The students can make one for $10 to $12.
Hi-Tech Machining and Engineering has supported high school shop classes like Desert View's for a long time.
The company is a member of Southern Arizona Manufacturing Partners, or SAMP.
SAMP is a consortium of local manufacturers working with Arizona@Work to train high school and Pima Community College students to fill openings at the companies.
Hi-Tech's new partnership with Desert View began just about a month ago.
The students use the company design and specifications and the company does the final inspection of parts.
With their new skills students can go on to college or straight into the workforce.
"Almost all of them have at least one credential coming out of the program and that's a nationally-recognized credential that they can go anywhere in the country," said Hi-Tech Vice President Jeremy Schalk.
Schalk said he's training his future employees.
His relationship with Desert View goes back to before this latest partnership.
"This particular school didn't even have a program at the time, was interested in getting a program. And so we told them what kind of equipment they needed so that they could be prepared to come work at our shops," Schalk said. "The school was able to build up the program to what you see today where they can actually make parts, real parts for real world applications."
What the students learn in the program prepares them for a range of jobs in manufacturing.
"They learn the vocabulary and how a part is made so they can get into their accounting areas, to be their control people, to be their measurement people for their quality control rooms, and also for their sales people," said Desert View Drafting, Design and Precision Manufacturing Instructor Cesar Gutierrez.
Desert View's entire program is accredited by the Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS).
Students have the opportunity to try the field to see if they might be interested.
Some have found they truly enjoy the work with the added benefit that it's in a stable career.
"I grew up not having much. My parents not having much and It's just a way to say thank you to my parents and just really have a secure life, have secure money and do something I really enjoy," said Precision Manufacturing Student Evelyn Plascencia.
"If I have a family and stuff, I could support them, but also I could teach my children or I could even teach classes of how machining works," said her classmate, David Miranda.
Desert View is the only second high school in the nation to partner with industry to manufacture actual parts.
It's a concept manufacturers hope is a model for the nation.
The Desert View partnership is part of a larger effort in Tucson to train tomorrow's skilled workforce for jobs right here in Tucson.
High schools, the Pima County Joint Technical Education District (JTED), Arizona@Work (formerly Pima County One-Stop Career Center) and industry are partnering to train students for long-term careers with in high-paying jobs.
For example, some Desert View students have the opportunity to win a scholarship to Pima Community College while in a part-time, paid internship with Hi-Tech Machining & Engineering.
The end result: The company has a worker trained the way it wants while the student has a job at graduation.
Several other companies and schools are participating in programs that bring industry, high schools, JTED and Arizona@Work together.