Largest U.S. Aviation Maintenance School to Open in Chicago
The Aviation Institute of Maintenance (AIM) will soon open its largest campus yet in Chicago, Illinois. The school has just received approval from the Illinois Bureau of Higher Education to establish its 14th campus in McKinley Park, a neighborhood on the southwest side of Chicago.
Construction is more than halfway through on the 137,000 ft.2 property, a $5 million project that AIM says will be the largest A&P school in America. Its current largest campus in Norfolk, Virginia is 109,000 ft.2—approximately 30% smaller. Ribbon cutting on the new campus will take place Sept. 15, with its first cohort of students starting Sept. 27.
According to Joel English, AIM’s executive vice president, the school’s size will enable it to enroll up to 1,200 students at any given time. He expects the campus to start out with roughly 500 students by the end of its first two years of operation, after which it will scale at pace to aerospace workforce needs.
AIM has already hired its first two employees in the Chicago area and expects to hire approximately 40 people from the area by the end of 2021, growing to 75 by the end of 2022. It has also purchased 14 new aircraft for the Chicago campus, including a new Learjet, which will begin arriving the week of June 21.
According to English, the McKinley Park neighborhood will be a great fit for the new AIM campus due to its mix of traditional working-class families and potential for new growth for young people. “Our students represent a mix of exactly these components,” he says. “Aviation mechanics are honest, ‘real work’ tradespeople who believe in working for a living, but our student is generally between the ages of 20-30—a younger ‘new collar’ professional.”
English adds that the new AIM campus will fill an educational gap in the area, as the nearest schools offering FAA-certified aviation maintenance programs are an hour or more away from the city center.
He says AIM has already started developing a relationship with the City Colleges of Chicago, including a program under which students within the City Colleges’ degree program in Aviation Maintenance will complete their technical education at AIM. Students selected for the program will have a clear pathway from high school to a career in aviation maintenance, including options to matriculate to Chicago City Colleges to earn an associate degree, transfer to Southern Illinois University to earn a bachelor’s degree or “off-ramp” and get employment within the aviation industry based on the coursework they have completed.
English says continued high demand for aviation maintenance technicians underlines why more than 70% of AIM’s graduates from 2020 are currently working in aviation roles today, despite the pandemic.
“Aviation mechanics make a median salary of $66,800 per year as a national average, and in the Chicago area, that number is over $72,000,” notes English. “It’s a great career, and we look forward to making it a career pathway available to Chicago’s citizens.”