A decade ago, high school senior Eric Lozano was among the first graduates of the Alamo Aerospace Academy — a program offering a free education and career path to promising students.

For two years, Lozano spent high school mornings in traditional classes. In the afternoons, he rode a school bus to the academy, located in St. Philip’s College‘s Southwest Campus, where he tackled college-level courses in aircraft maintenance and mechanics.

The summer after his junior year he worked as a paid intern at Boeing’s Port San Antonio facility. By age 18 he had two graduation ceremonies — from high school and the academy, where he had earned significant college credits. A job at Boeing awaited him. With help from his new employer, he continued his studies.

Today, Lozano holds several certifications, including in project management and lean manufacturing, while working toward a four-year degree. He’s a manager in Boeing’s 747-8 program — overseeing production changes to one of the world’s largest cargo airplanes.

To succeed as a community, we must nurture talent such as Lozano’s to compete in 21st century industries growing here.

The aerospace industry is reshaping our community. According to the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, aerospace generates over $5 billion in local economic activity annually. In addition to Boeing, industry marquee names at Port San Antonio, where much of the region’s aerospace growth is taking place, include Lockheed Martin, Gore Design Completions, Pratt & Whitney, Chromalloy and StandardAero.

Aerospace firms at the Port employ 5,000 people. They earn, on average, over $50,000 a year. Like Lozano, many access additional training advancing their careers.

Employment prospects are excellent. Worldwide demand for aerospace products is strong while the industry faces a worker shortage as retirements outpace recruitments.

Port San Antonio and partners have focused on educational programs for years, with Alamo Colleges and St. Philip’s providing critical support.

This collaboration grew last December when the port sold Alamo Colleges 30 acres of land and a 40,000-square-foot building valued at $5.1 million — more than doubling the footprint of St. Philip’s Southwest Campus.

Alamo Colleges may pay cash for the property or pay in the form of cash credits for placing graduates with aerospace companies at the port. The college district can also receive credit for workforce development grants it secures to train those workers.

For these innovative efforts to succeed, however, young people must be inspired long before they can enter the academy or other programs.

Parents, teachers and guidance counselors should highlight how what students learn today connects to engaging careers in their own back yard. Likewise, educators, public officials and industry should continue efforts aligning learning resources with the region’s promising employment prospects.

Port San Antonio will gladly continue building modern facilities to accommodate more aerospace business. But to guide talent like Eric Lozano’s toward bright futures within those spaces takes all of us.


Bruce Miller is president and CEO of Port San Antonio.