LIFT Aviation Maintenance Technician Apprenticeship Program Celebrates National Apprenticeship Week

LIFT Academy’s Aviation Maintenance Technician (AMT) Apprenticeship Program welcomed its first class of students in Fall 2019 as part of a strategic workforce development initiative to vertically integrate aircraft technicians into Republic Airways as demand for the career continues to grow in the aviation industry. LIFT partnered with the U.S. Department of Labor to establish and launch the apprenticeship program, and as we celebrate National Apprenticeship Week with the U.S. Department of Labor this week (November 15-21), we give a shout out to our apprentices who do great work to keep our aircraft and pilots safe.

According to the Boeing Pilot and Technician Outlook report, an estimated 626,000 technicians will be needed worldwide by 2040. Since the AMT Apprenticeship’s inception, we have doubled the number of apprentices in the program from 10 to 20 and look forward to continue to expand in the future.

Through the 30-month program, apprentices will assist LIFT A&P technicians with all maintenance of LIFT’s Diamond Aircraft fleet, while also learning about the Embraer 175 jet through Republic Airways maintenance team. As part of their day-to-day work, apprentices become skilled at the following (among many other skills!): inspections, tire and brake changes, monthly avionics updates, engine changes, troubleshooting and repairing electrical and engine issues and corrosion prevention and cleaning. They also perform other essential duties to care for and service our fleet, including washing and de-icing planes. With our fleet of 45 new Diamond DA40 and DA42 aircraft and more than 200 Embraer E175 jets, the apprentices are working on some of the most technologically advanced aircraft in the industry.

Within the earn-to-learn program, apprentices can start their training with zero maintenance knowledge, as they work side-by-side with our licensed A&P technicians to learn every aspect of aircraft maintenance, preparing them for Airframe and Powerplant testing, required by the FAA to become a licensed aircraft technician. Apprentices are also supported by LIFT’s Director of Maintenance, Quality Assurance Manager and Repair Station Manager and a team that holds more than 100 combined years of aircraft maintenance knowledge from all areas of the aviation industry.

As their training continues, more experienced apprentices are paired up with new apprentices entering the program to help pass on information they have learned. By the time AMT apprentices are finished with the program, they will have two and a half years of real world experience working on airplanes, which can offer an advantage over traditional AMT training programs that are more classroom based.

Interesting in pursuing a career as an aviation maintenance technician with a dream of working on aircraft for a living? Apply to our program here. We are looking for candidates who have an eye for detail, are excited to come to work each day to dedicate themselves to the program, and who may have an interest in working on mechanical things, including bikes, model planes, cars and motorcycles.

The best way to learn about the program is to hear from some of the AMT apprentices themselves. Meet Justin and Curtis, two of LIFT’s AMT apprentices and hear their thoughts on the program and experiences so far.

Justin Gibson, LIFT AMT Apprentice

Curtis Wells, LIFT AMT Apprentice

What were you doing prior to joining the AMT Apprenticeship?

Justin Gibson – I was working on the ramp at Indianapolis International Airport (IND), offloading and loading aircraft for FedEx Express.

Curtis Wells – Prior to joining the AMT Apprenticeship I was working for Frito-Lay in one of their distribution centers.

Have you always wanted to work in a technical field?

Justin – I have always been interested in working in a technical field, but specifically in aviation. I’ve been an AV geek since I was a kid!

Curtis – Not always. I was originally interested in getting a private pilot license to become an airline pilot but ended up pursuing the AMT apprenticeship instead.


What drew you to the AMT Apprenticeship?

Justin – The fact that you get experience while being paid, instead of spending $30,000 or so on schooling. I chose LIFT’s AMT Apprenticeship over going back to a different AMT school I attended previously.

Curtis – I was first accepted into the pilot program but changed my mind when I saw the AMT Apprenticeship on LIFT’s website.

What expectations did you have about the program before you started? What about LIFT Academy and Republic Airways?

Justin – I came into the program with the expectation that I would learn and obtain the skills necessary to continue working in the aviation industry. I knew LIFT Academy and Republic Airways were very excited to be able to train people to get their A&P certifications and offer this program, so I knew I was getting myself into a program that would offer me opportunities during and after.

Curtis – I felt prepared to begin the program because everything was explained clearly during the interview process.

How does an earn-while-you-learn program like the AMT Apprenticeship allow you to follow your goals?

Justin – The hands-on experience I get in the AMT Apprenticeship teaches me the knowledge and skills I’ll be able to apply for the rest of my career. I have gained even more respect, understanding and love for the aviation industry. The AMT Apprenticeship has also given me the ability to have downtime and a social life, something I didn’t have when I was both working and going to school fulltime.

Curtis – An earn-to-learn program allows me to follow my goals in many ways. I get two and a half years of experience, I get paid to learn and I get to learn from A&P technicians who have many years of knowledge and experience.


What about working at LIFT in the AMT Apprenticeship makes you feel fulfilled?

Justin – It is fulfilling because I feel like I’m living out my purpose. I’m able to work in a field I’ve loved for ages, being engaged and gaining knowledge, and at the end of the day I get to see friends who are CFIs and students take off and fly the very planes I help maintain.

Curtis – I get a sense of pride and feel fulfilled when I see a LIFT Academy airplane fly overhead and know that I’m part of a maintenance team that makes sure each of those planes are safe and airworthy.

What barriers, if any, did you encounter when trying to become an A&P technician?

Justin – There weren’t any external barriers for me, other than myself. I second guessed myself before I started at LIFT on if I really wanted to be an A&P technician, but the doubt subsided the very first day I worked on a DA-40NG.

What have been the most difficult parts of the program for you so far? How have you been helped through them?

Justin – For me it was the massive learning curve of aircraft systems. I knew some information already from being very interested in the aviation industry, but working with the aircraft took me a bit of time to get used to. The technicians that guide us and work with us have helped tremendously, giving us insight and knowledge from their experience and understanding of each of our questions or problems at hand.

Curtis – When issues have come up, I’ve learned to ask more questions to the A&P technicians. I have found that different technicians have different ways they like to do things (while still following procedures) and have taken their many years of experience to find the best solutions. It is helpful to have them available and helping us while we work.

What you feel is the best part of the program for you?

Justin – I really enjoy the days where we get unusual maintenance or have to troubleshoot problems we don’t usually encounter. For me, this brings forth a lot of new knowledge over the aircraft. Going down a rabbit hole of manuals and reaching out to Diamond for insight is always fun and engaging.

Curtis – The best part for me is that its hands-on. I’ve always learned better that way.

What are you looking forward to your future career as an A&P technician?

Justin – I am looking forward to being able to watch planes I’ve worked on take to the skies. I’ve been an aviation nerd since I was a little kid, so being able to turn wrenches on planes for a living is a dream come true.

Curtis – I’m looking forward to the many different avenues in aviation you can take as an A&P technician, like working on the airline, being a part of general aviation, being able to help restore planes, etc.