Airport and College Land $5.5M Funding for Aviation Training School | Business Observer
After at least two years of trying to start an aviation maintenance school at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, the plan is coming to fruition.
The Manatee County School District, Manatee Technical College, and Sarasota Manatee Airport Authority, in partnership with Suncoast Technical College Sarasota and the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, will open the school for maintenance technicians aircraft at the airport. It is tentatively scheduled to open in 2024.
The ability to begin design and construction of the school is the result of $5.5 million allocated for the project in the 2022 state budget, which Governor Ron DeSantis signed on June 2.
“It’s exciting and we are grateful to be able to start moving forward,” says Valérie Viands, Principal of Manatee Technical College. “We believe timing is critical with the shortage not only of mechanics but also of drivers.”
Viands says the $5.5 million will go toward groundbreaking and beginning construction of the hangar, hiring a program manager, and purchasing equipment needed for the mechanics program at the airframe and the aviation mechanics program.
Once the school opens, MTC will partner with Suncoast Technical College to offer Career Certificate Workforce Training for students to become Airframe Mechanics and Aviation Powerplant Mechanics. USF Sarasota-Manatee will prepare students for aviation maintenance licenses as well as advanced training in the aviation industry.
“They will be supervised by professionals in their field”, specifies Viands. “The instructors who are already hired would be certified and have a significant number of years of experience in the field.”
Students enrolled in the school will complete both the Airframe Mechanics program and the Aviation Powerplant Mechanics program within one and a half to two years. Then the job opportunities are plentiful: There are 14,000 projected openings for aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians each year over the next decade, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. United.
“It’s a well-paying job,” says Rick Piccolo, CEO of Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. “Kids who are graduating from high school and not bound to college can go to MTC and get a certificate in mechanics and go to work. This provides them with an excellent occupation which, as they gain experience and work, can lead to an excellent professional field.
Viands hopes that between 20 and 25 students will be in the inaugural class. Like many MTC programs, the aviation school will have enrollment twice a year, meaning potentially 40-50 students could graduate and be placed in jobs each year.
Aviation Maintenance Technician School students will have a combination of classroom work and hands-on experience in both programs. Students will work with aircraft that are retired and designated for the school.
“Any time you can practice in the facility where someone is doing the work, you see it, you hear it, it becomes real,” says Viands. “Some schools have the aviation program on campus, and they have the engines, but the whole airplane might not be there.”
Viands says Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport is the perfect location for the Aviation Maintenance Technician School because it can attract students not only from Manatee and Sarasota counties, but other surrounding counties as well.
“Looking around you now, where would you find quality people to come and do mechanics on the plane”? Viands said. “You would have to recruit out of the region or potentially out of state. We hope that by bringing it directly to the airport, we can meet the need and then be a hub to provide opportunities for students to go elsewhere and seek other opportunities where there are jobs of mechanic available.
Piccolo says graduates of the school will have opportunities around the world because every country has an airport. The program will also help attract major maintenance operators to the region.
“Having a talent pool that can be easily populated makes it easier to attract major maintenance operators to the airport,” says Piccolo. “We worked with the Economic Development Council to try to attract that. Attracting businesses to the region provides more economic opportunities, economic impact and employment. »