A career in the skilled trades is often the last option on high school graduates’ minds, as attending a four-year college has long been considered their logical next step toward a rewarding career.

But with the cost of college tuition soaring, the value of a bachelor’s degree in question, and sky-high demand for skilled tradespeople leading to more robust salaries and greater job security, more young people are enrolling in trade schools than they have in years.

In fact, 47% of young adults say they would be interested in pursuing a career in the trades, which marks a seismic shift in the way skilled labor is viewed in the U.S.

This is particularly good news for career fields with severe labor shortages, such as aviation maintenance technicians (AMTs) who keep the world’s planes and helicopters operating safely.

“With 90,000 active AMTs approaching retirement age, there is a fast-growing need for new talent in this critically important field, so it is very heartening that young people’s newfound appreciation and respect for skilled labor is helping drive more interest toward this vital career path,” said Suzanne Markle, President and CEO of Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics (PIA).

According to Boeing’s 2023-2042 Pilot and Technician Outlook, 125,000 new mechanics and avionics pros will need to join the field over the next 20 years to meet the growing needs of the aviation industry in the United States. If these roles aren’t filled, airlines will be forced to reduce the number of flights they operate, which can affect everything from passenger travel to cargo.

To further assist students as they prepare to takeoff at graduation and begin their journey as an AMT professional, PIA has developed career shadowing and pathway program partnerships with many top regional and national aviation employers, including American Airlines, Piedmont, SkyWest, and Winner Aviation. Related programs can offer students financial tuition assistance, professional mentorship, hiring opportunities, and more. These intimate employer relationships also assist the PIA Career Services department in student interview preparation through the mock interview process giving another edge to those participating students.

These intimate employer relationships also assist the PIA Career Services department in student interview preparation through the mock interview process giving another edge to those participating students.

Starting salaries for these roles are also moving up: PIA graduates now typically earn between $48,000 and $58,000 in their first industry jobs.

In fact, updated data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a $75,020 median annual wage is for aircraft mechanics and service technicians while the $77,420 is the median annual wage for avionics technicians in May 2023.  With PIA graduates’ typically starting their careers at $20 to $24 per hour — aspiring technicians can enter this rewarding and stable career field while incurring significantly less student loan debt than a traditional four-year college — which is something many PIA grads who became AMTs after pursuing other career paths say they wish they’d known about sooner.

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