KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Samara Vance has always been fascinated by airplanes. When the Aviation Institute of Maintenance (AIM) launched the organization’s first program for high school students last year, Vance jumped on board.
“I was ecstatic, and I wanted to be a part of it,” she said.
When she graduated from Blue Springs High School in 2020, she enrolled at AIM full-time, passing up going to a traditional four-year college.
“This just seemed like such a fantastic option, especially with the demand in this area right now,” Vance said.
Patrick Nelson, AIM's community outreach coordinator, said demand is soaring for certified aviation mechanics. Many mechanics are retiring, commercial passenger flights are expected to bounce back, cargo planes are busier than ever, and even grounded planes require maintenance, according to Nelson. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts demand for aviation-related mechanics will grow 5% by 2028. Nelson said demand is even higher worldwide.
“Some weeks I get about four or five calls [from employers]," Nelson said. "I just had a call yesterday where I talked to an employer who’s hiring right here in Kansas City right now."
With AIM, students spend half their time the classroom and half their time in a workshop getting hands-on experience. After 21 months, they take a test to earn their certification. Nelson said a student with that certification can earn $60,000 annually immediately upon graduating.
“The really cool thing is this industry is pandemic proof,” Nelson said.
Vance got a head start thanks to the high school program. She’ll only need 15 months at AIM before she can get a job with her certification – all before she turns 20-years-old.
“I can go anywhere, I can do anything," she said. "It’s just such a big door-opener. It’s so worth it."
Fellow student Justin O’Connell chose this career after service in the Marine Corps introduced him to avionics.
“I wanted a good career to set my family up for success,” the veteran said.
More information on AIM can be found on the institute's website.
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