‘Best Job Ever’: Embry-Riddle’s SkillBridge Program Steers Military Vets Toward New Careers in Aviation Maintenance

Man with kids and helicopter.
Juan Teodoro Paredes credits Embry‑Riddle’s Aviation Maintenance SkillBridge program with helping him find the a new and fulfilling career path. The U.S. Marine Corps veteran is pictured here with three of his children and one of the helicopters he maintains. (Photo: Embry‑Riddle/Andrew Jump)

After serving nine years in the U.S. Marine Corps, Juan Teodoro Paredes was ready to embark on a new career, and he credits the AMT SkillBridge program at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University for helping him land his dream job.

Paredes, who in 2022 completed the SkillBridge program hosted by Embry-Riddle’s Worldwide Campus, currently works for Air Methods Corporation as an aviation maintenance technician servicing Rady Children's Hospital.

“Things couldn’t have worked out better,” said Paredes, who lives with his wife and four young children in Temecula, California. “This is the best job ever. It has allowed me the opportunity to spend a lot of time with my family and have a stable paycheck working within the aviation and medical community.”

Woman and family at a waterfall
U.S. Air Force veteran Renee Peaper, who is married with a 17-year-old daughter and a 3-year-old son, said she was able to complete Embry‑Riddle’s Aviation Maintenance SkillBridge program completely online from her home in Camden, South Carolina. (Photo: Embry‑Riddle/ Renee Peaper)

The AMT SkillBridge program at Embry-Riddle is a nine-week, full-time program designed to train and place students in aviation maintenance technician careers. Graduates earn an Aviation Maintenance Certificate (B-737). Students eligible for the program include military service members who are within six months of separation or retirement, plus recently transitioned veterans with an honorable discharge and military spouses.

Originally from Long Island, New York, Pardes had worked as a helicopter mechanic for most of his time in the Marines. After moving to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, he supported the Huey and Cobra helicopter programs, steadily progressing in his unit.

“I realized to get a well-paying job, you need your Airframe and Powerplant Certificate through the FAA,” he said. “My SkillBridge program instructor Dwayne Lewis motivated me and gave me the framework to go on to get my Federal Aviation Administration Airframe and Powerplant certification.”

Lewis, who died in October 2023, was an Eagle for more than 20 years and was well-liked throughout the university, said Dr. Nicole Bier, assistant professor in the College of Aviation at Embry-Riddle’s Worldwide Campus.

Paredes said Lewis took students on field trips to local aviation facilities and generously offered advice.

“I completed the process of obtaining my Airframe and Powerplant Certificate in under three weeks because of his encouragement,” said Paredes. “He definitely was a big motivating factor and took me under his wing to help me through the process.” 

Looking back, Paredes said SkillBridge helped him find a new career path after the military.

“Embry-Riddle provided me with the environment to pursue my goals to continue within aviation,” said Paredes.

Paredes’ story is not unique. For Renee Peaper, who served 20 years in the U.S. Air Force, the SkillBridge program was also crucial to transitioning into civilian life.

“I like the physical aspect of aviation maintenance, getting my hands dirty,” said Peaper, who worked in aircraft structural maintenance in the military. She was also pursuing an Associate in Science in Aviation Maintenance at Embry-Riddle’s Worldwide Campus when she enrolled in Skillbridge. “It was a no-brainer.”

With a 17-year-old daughter and a 3-year-old son, she said she was even more excited when she realized she could do the program completely online from her home in Camden, South Carolina. She completed the program in March 2023. Next, she’s hoping to find an AMT job in Greenville, South Carolina.

Posted In: Aviation