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INDIANAPOLIS — There is a place on Indianapolis's west side helping to fill a significant void, while keeping airline passengers safe and planes in the air.
The Aviation Institute of Maintenance is also changing lives and helping families improve their lifestyles.
In fact, Eric West calls it one of the best decisions he has ever made.
"Honestly, I wish I had known about this course sooner," West says. "I would have been in here a long time ago for it."
The husband and father left one industry that turned out to be not so promising.
A commercial he overheard led him to sign up for classes at Aviation Institute of Maintenance.
Now, West works for Comlux, and he specializes in electronics for luxury jets.
He credits AIM for his new expertise, saying, "The classes were direct and to the point. Easy to follow. And being pretty good with my hands, I figured this would be a game-changer for me right here."
It's a similar story for Timothy Oduremi.
He once knew nothing about the complicated mechanics of a plane.
Now, however, he works for GE Aviation, making aircraft engines.
The new career enables him to support his family in Nigeria.
"I finished my program in June," he says, "and as soon as I finished, I just waited two weeks trying to prepare myself for job interviews. Even before I left the school, I had job offers."
AIM is preparing the next generation of airplane mechanics and maintenance techs, helping them understand a plane from nose to tail.
Administrators point out the industry needs 180,000 airplane mechanics and techs, in the U.S. alone, over the next ten years.
Campus Executive Director Andy Duncan says the AIM programs and course work runs for 21 months, and new classes start every five weeks.
Duncan says, "We start with a base knowledge that you don't really know anything about working in the aviation field or about airplanes."
By the end of the program, he explains students are ready to take FAA tests, get certified, and get to work.
Administrators say graduates, who land a job, can start out making about $30.00 per hour, before overtime.
Duncan stresses the aviation maintenance industry is experiencing a severe shortage of workers.
Several large commercial airlines are already asking for graduates from AIM.
He says, "Locally, we don't have enough graduates to fulfill the local needs even, let alone the needs across the country."
It is one of the reasons why the school does everything it can to support its students, including helping with financial aid and other life demands.
Crystal Stewart runs the Career Services division of AIM. She explains, "We put all kinds of resources in place to help them get through the challenges of transportation, housing, childcare. We provide tutors. Our instructors are here every day of the week to provide them with assistance when challenges happen in the classroom."
Graduate Timothy Oduremi says the new job he landed through AIM has helped him to provide for himself and pay his bills.
He says, "I can take care of my family. I can take care of my siblings, my parents back home in Nigeria. I make them smile. And they pray for me always."
- Tuition at AIM starts around $35,000.
- Grants and financial aid are available.
- Graduates say the cost may sound steep, but it's worth it.