CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — Officials from Pierpont Community and Technical College are ready to make full use of the $25 million allocated by the West Virginia Legislature.
The funds are directed towards constructing a new aviation maintenance hangar after legislatures approved funding as part of a special session in August. The new hangar will be located at the North Central West Virginia Airport and will become the new home of Pierpont’s aviation maintenance training program. Construction of the new facility gives Pierpont’s board of governors confidence that the popular program will continue to grow.
“It’s always just been kind of never really exceeding what we knew we could do, and we have worked with the legislatures really hard these last couple of years,” said Pierpont Community and Technical College Board of Governors Chairman David Hinkle. “And we got them to understand the growth in our industry up there,” he said.
Hinkle states that the new 70,000-square-foot structure will allow the aviation maintenance training program, which has seen an increase in applications, to accept more students. The construction of high-tech labs dedicated to engine and turbine repair, flight control studies, and hydraulic systems will be a part of the facility, including two new “high-bay” hangars for larger aircraft. The accommodations for aircraft that can be taken straight from the North Central West Virginia Airport runway will allow Pierpont’s aviation program to nearly double in size.
“Right now we’re at 130 students with a waitlist, and this new facility will allow us to go to 200 and allow for future growth,” he said.
The facility expansion at the North Central West Virginia Airport is also expected to help further supplement a growing job market. According to Hinkle, Pierpont students who have applied and passed the aviation maintenance program have found immediate work in the field after they received Federal Aviation Administration certification. Jobs that have been reported with starting salaries as high as $100,000 after earning a one- to two-year degree.
“Once you graduate and get your certificate, you’re guaranteed a job anywhere in West Virginia, anywhere in the world,” said Hinkle on Metronews Talkline. “It allows you to make an income that can be as much as over six figures,” he said.
When construction is complete, the facility will be located at the North Central West Virginia Airport Aerotech Park. Students who will be a part of Pierpont’s aviation maintenance training program will be within driving distance of several aviation maintenance businesses, including the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries facilities at the Aerotech Park. With funds in place on a state level, Hinkle states the next goal for Pierpont Community and Technical College is to find more commercial partners so students who work toward degrees will have more opportunities when they leave.
“We’re projecting 1,500 new employees on top of the 1,400 that work up there now,” said Hinkle on the potential of the Aerotech Park location. “And we’re going out from the airport side and looking for more businesses to commit,” he said.