Sarasota Bradenton Airport to work with local colleges to provide aircraft maintenance training

New opportunities will be landing at the Sarasota Bradenton International Airport. Officials said the airport will become a hub for teaching students the ins and outs of airplanes. 

Rick Piccolo, the president and chief executive officer at the airport, said as the airport and community continue to grow, this is a win for the area. 

"This will help us to attract major repair companies, because we will have a line of talent a continuous line of talent that’s available to them so that they can get talent to work on aircrafts," said Piccolo.

State Representative Fiona McFarland and Senator Joe Gruters sponsored the initiative. The state budget signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis allocates $5.5 million to the School District of Manatee County. The money will be used to build an Aviation Maintenance Technician School.

Manatee Technical College will partner with Sarasota's Suncoast Technical College to provide career certificate workforce training in aviation Airframe Mechanic and Aviation Powerplan Mechanic.

The University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee will also be involved and help prepare students for licenses in aviation maintenance and employment. 

There are nearly 1,500 annual job openings for aircraft mechanics and technicians statewide and those needs grow as more continue to retire. 

"We've spoken to a number of professionals in the field, and they are crying for aviation mechanics all over the nation," said Manatee Technical College Director Dr. Valerie Viands.

Once certification is complete, starting salary is around $65,000 a year. MTC hopes students will stay local, but their certifications will be valid throughout the country.

"Someone going through an aviation program can pretty much write there ticket where in the country they’d like to go after training," said Dr. Viands.

It'll take around two to three years before the program is in operation. 

"It's a great opportunity for the students, we think we will attract a lot of students that already have careers and degrees, because they will see the opportunity," said Dr. Paul Gansemer, the executive director of adult career and technical education with Manatee County School District.