VIENNA, Ohio (WKBN) – Shovels were in the dirt Tuesday to begin work on expanding a high-tech school at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport.
The Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics (PIA) is expanding its facility at the airport. A two-story facility will be constructed at the south side of its Hangar 3 building, set to feature new electrical and welding classrooms, an aeronautics lab, administrative offices and a conference facility.
The $1.5 million project includes new classrooms, office space, equipment and expanded programming.
For Matt Trowbridge, of Cleveland, it’s about feeding a passion.
“I’ve been passionate about planes and aeronautics my whole life, so I just turned 30 and it’s time to do something about it.”
Cortland’s Gary Baker is turning a hobby in mechanics into a lifetime goal.
“I’m hoping to get a job in, starting out in regional airlines, probably commercial airlines. I wanna work on the big jets, the big stuff,” he said.
Both are students at PIA’s local campus at YNG.
The expansion comes at a time when experts are predicting a huge demand for men and women who know how to maintain aircraft as older workers retire, perhaps 600,000 over the next 20 years.
“We’re having a very, very, and the airlines themselves are having a very hard time finding these skilled airframe and power plant mechanics due to that exodus of Baby Boomers,” said Jason Morgan, PIA Director of Career Services.
Dan Bender, of New Middletown, is a PIA graduate and now works as a maintenance inspector with U.S. Airways.
“You can’t just hire somebody that works on cars to work on an airplane,” Bender said.
In order to graduate, PIA students must complete a 16-month, 1,900-hour course. Starting salaries for certified mechanics average around $18 an hour.
Bender is 51 in an industry where more than three-quarters of the workforce is in their 50s.
“What I see now is these kids that are graduating from here, they’re gonna be able to write whatever they want to go. They’re hiring right off the street for big airplanes and things like that right now,” Bender said.
Phase one of the expansion project is expected to be completed by December 1 and phase two should be completed by March 1.