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Airline industry in need of new mechanics; Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics trying to change that

WEST MIFFLIN, Pa. — The airline industry is in dire need of new mechanics and technicians.

The shortage, created by growing demand and an aging workforce, is only expected to grow.

However, the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics is working to close that gap.

Channel 11′s Pete DeLuca sat down with students and administrators to learn how this new effort is taking off.

Behind every commercial aircraft is an international workforce of hundreds of thousands of highly skilled mechanics keeping those planes running smoothly—and safely.

“It is expected to continue over the next 20 years, and that’s really as far out as they’re projecting,” said Suzanne Markle, PIA President and CEO. “The cause of that shortage is two-fold. You have a combination of growth in the industry, coupled with mechanics in the industry nearing retirement age.”

Right now, as the industry faces a growing shortage of workers, training new airline mechanics has never been more important.

Boeing estimates that 125-thousand new mechanics and avionics specialists will be needed by 2042, partly because 38% of current aviation mechanics are at least 60 years old.

Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics at the Allegheny County Airport in West Mifflin is training the next generation.

“We graduate a class every three months, we’re on a quarterly basis, and our students, for the most part, almost all of them are walking out of here with a great paying job,” Donna Moore, dean of student affairs, said.

PIA’s 250 students in West Mifflin get daily hands-on training as they specialize in either aviation maintenance technology or aviation electronics technology.

“It’s been an absolute whirlwind. You start with some super basic stuff and now I have one quarter left. It’s getting more advanced, it’s getting tougher, but it’s really exciting and really interesting,” student Lauren Kretchman said.

Students earn an associate’s degree and necessary job certifications in a 21-month accelerated program.

PIA is one of only three schools across the country chosen by United for the partnership.

The program will accept 300 students total each year.

“I really think that this program – I think of it as the foundation to my future. I think that my career can be built off of what I learn here,” student Forrest Zischkau said.

United is introducing this direct-to-employment push as it expands its fleet.

The airline is expecting 800 new planes by 2032

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