The Air Force recently developed an Air Traffic Control Trainer Course, the first trainer course designed for a specific career field, to improve retention rates.
The three-day course, implemented first at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., trains Airmen who have completed their year of on-the-job training and are preparing to train the newest controllers coming from technical school.
“The course goes over the entire training structure: on-the-job training, stress awareness, one on one simulation scenarios, live training and FAA training,” said Master Sgt. Jesus Reyes, 56th Operations Support Squadron ATC training and standardization noncommissioned officer in charge. “We go start to finish from when you get here all the way to being upgraded in our career field.”
Last year an Air Force analysis team was assembled to identify the weaknesses in the ATC career field as attrition rates rose. Reyes explained that traditionally everyone in the ATC career field went through the AF trainer course, which was inadequate because they don’t use career development courses or electronic records which track training progress.
The objective of the new course is to develop the training culture and expectations by giving a quality training perspective and an understanding of the adult learning process for teaching career field specific tasks.
“I’ve been in the old course and the new one,” said Senior Airman Patrick Griffith, 56th OSS ATC. “From what I saw the new one is much more beneficial to go through. I think this a good asset and they’ll be able to jump right into being a trainer.”
The analysis team identified that better prepared trainers would result in more Airmen making it through their first year of upgrade training.
“We lose about 15 percent of Airmen in tech school,” said Reyes. “Then we lose another estimated 35 percent once they’re in the unit. Ultimately only about half of the 230 Airmen that we send to tech school a year make it to become a fully qualified controller.”
Luke has already made strides to improve attrition rates within the unit.
“A year and a half ago, unit level we were at about an 18 percent attrition rate,” said Reyes. “We’re down to eight percent. By filling this training gap we’re hoping to get to zero washouts.”