In honor of Women’s History Month, Port Jobs talked with SEA Airport employee Haley Barnes about her career journey to aircraft mechanic and college instructor.
When Haley Barnes moved to Seattle in 2015 she started working at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) as a part-time ramp agent for Delta Air Lines. Within a year, she was promoted to a fulltime job where she got to explore every part of airline operations. Haley was working as a Tower Agent in 2019 when her supervisor said, “You’ve been talking about being interested in airplane maintenance. I saw a flyer that Port Jobs is doing an information session on Aviation Maintenance Technicians. You should go.” She did, and it opened the door to her new career!
A lot has happened since that day when Haley listened to South Seattle College talk about their eight-quarter Aviation Maintenance Technician (AMT) program. Haley was initially scared but heard at the session that, “You can do it, and there will be people who are there to help you succeed.” She said, “It can be intimidating. The AMT program is long. You are thinking – I would be working on airplanes that have to be safe. Planes that millions of people get on every day. “ Despite these concerns she took the leap. During her first class, Haley was taught by a female instructor. She remembered feeling, “I can do this. I am represented. I do belong here.” As a student leader advocate for diversifying the male-dominated AMT field, Haley helped launch and lead the Women and Allies in Trades group, which works to ensure that women, LGTBQ individuals, and others who are underrepresented succeed in the trades.
Haley was an honor student all the way through the AMT program, while working full-time at Delta Air Lines. She graduated in the summer of 2021 and within two months passed the required FAA certification exams. Because she had received scholarships from Port Jobs and other sources, she graduated debt free. By November she was employed by Delta Air Lines Tech Operations as a Line Mechanic. Haley advised others who might be considering becoming an AMT to, “Take the leap. This is what it has done for my life. You can turn your life around so fast. Don’t give up. Push. You will have the support of a community where all belong.” In fall 2022, when South Seattle College was looking for an AMT instructor, Haley got a call to join the faculty. She has been teaching ever since.
Today Haley has two full-time jobs. She still works as an AMT instructor at South Seattle College, and is a Line Mechanic for Delta Airlines When describing her Line Mechanic job, she says the best thing is, “You never get bored. Everyday you are faced with new situations. You never stop learning. You are always having to troubleshoot some issue. You have to dive into the knowledge you have. You get training on each fleet and with each different aircraft. This career is not repetitive.” Haley added that, “AMT training opens doors to so many different fields – especially with drones coming.” Also, she said that in her role as an AMT instructor she remains a strong member of Women and Allies in Trades, and continues to reach out to communities who are underrepresented.
Haley says she is starting to see more women in the AMT program, and credits Port Jobs for helping to diversify and grow the AMT workforce by reaching out to all who work at SEA Airport. She is proud to be a member of the South Seattle faculty, and working for a college that cares so deeply about their students. Haley added that the AMT program changes the lives of people who choose this career path. She said, “Aviation is a tight knit community. Lean on the people around you. Being an AMT is a job for everybody and anybody who wants to do this and is ready to put in the work. I tell everyone I know who has this interest – you can do this. Don’t give up. This program can be hard, but the rewards are great. If you make this move you will take care of yourself and your family. It changed my life. And it could change yours.”
Are you interested in becoming an aircraft mechanic? Port Jobs is holding its next “Introduction to Aviation Maintenance Technology” class at SEA Airport this fall. This free class is open to SEA Airport employees and community members (as space is available). It prepares people to enroll in a two-year AMT training program. Join our mailing list for class updates!