Career fair at PIA looks to bring young students into aviation industry

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – Aviation companies lined the halls of the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics in Myrtle Beach Thursday as students graduating in May grabbed flyers and pamphlets, and networked in the hope of lining up a job down the road.

"Many of the mechanics that are out there are over 50 and only 3 percent of the population of mechanics are under 30 at this point in time," said campus director Peg Skalican.

More people are retiring from the business and not enough are looking for jobs. That makes getting younger people interested in the business is a challenge.

Skalican said the main responsibility of an airframe and power plant technician is to return an aircraft to service safely. They'll work on things like electronics, hydraulics and engines to make sure the plane will fly safely without any problems.

"Young people don't tinker in their backyards taking things apart and working on their cars, so the interaction with their hands and using tools is less and less," said Skalican.

This goes along with the fact that Skalican said more students are looking to go to four-year colleges rather than getting into trades.

"The industry is needing mechanics right now," said maintenance space manager Jason Culver with Piedmont, "Every company needs them. I think there's more employers than there are graduates right now, so that's the biggest problem we're having."

Over a dozen employers were at Thursday's career fair, with just 10 graduating students.

Jeff Crouell, business development manager with Moseley Technical Services, said it's not just the technical skills they're looking for in candidates, but the soft skills as well.

"We've seen that only about 15 percent of success in any industry is technical skills," said Crouell, "The rest of it is the soft skills, the attitude, the aptitude. How do you get along with people? Do you show up to work on time? Those are the valuable skill sets that most big corporations are looking for."

Crouell said getting kids interested at a high school level might help in recruiting more young people into the industry.

Trapper Evans plans on graduating in May and said he was always intrigued by aviation. Once he got into high school, he said wasn't sure what field he wanted to get into until he said a representative from PIA reminded him.

"She sent her representative down to our school and they brought us in here for an open house and run up the O-470 13-A and that was just … from then on I was like, yeah that's pretty awesome," said Evans.

He said the aviation industry is a challenge, but if a person likes to learn something different every day, they may enjoy it.

"You're never going to stop learning. You open up so many doors for yourself coming in here. I mean, you're dealing with electrical, hydraulics, turbines which offer us electrical power," said Evans.

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