Last fall, United Airlines launched Calibrate, a technician apprenticeship program. This 36-month paid, in-house program provides in-classroom learning and on-the-job training to prepare people—including our non-licensed, International Brotherhood of Teamsters–represented Tech Ops employees—to test and earn their Airframe and Powerplant licenses to become Aircraft Maintenance Technicians. Additionally, Calibrate will provide a path to grow the ranks of our Ground Service Equipment Technicians and Facility Technicians.
Calibrate apprentices will get hands-on experience using our state-of-the-art fleet, rather than generalized training on older planes. Participants will be trained and coached by our world-class technicians, build relationships within United, and acquire craft seniority, which will help with shift bids, work crew selection, and higher pay scales. By 2026, the Calibrate apprentice program will have more than 1,000 participants across the United system, with a goal that at least half of the trainees will be women and people of color.
The goal of diversifying Calibrate trainees builds on United’s overall diversity, equity, and inclusion commitments across the company. This February, as we celebrate Black History Month, we are also remembering Black aviation pioneers such as Cornelius Coffey, who was the first Black person to hold both an aircraft mechanic license and a pilot license. Coffey faced discrimination from existing aviation institutions that would not admit him because of his race, but he was eventually admitted after a lawsuit, and he was among his class’s top graduates.
In 1938, he founded Coffey School of Aeronautics—the first Black-owned certified flight school. From 1938 to 1945, more than 1,500 Black students went through Coffey’s school, including the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of Black military pilots and airmen who fought in World War II. After the war, Coffey was an instructor at the Lewis School of Aeronautics and then at Dunbar Vocational High School in Chicago, where he trained some of the first Black people to be hired as mechanics by commercial airlines.
We hope that Calibrate helps continue the legacy of Coffey and other diverse aviators by providing more opportunities to groups of people who’ve been historically underrepresented in technician positions and other roles.
Those interested in applying for the Calibrate program can receive more information at careers.united.com/calibrate