New Springfield facility will educate, graduate more aviation mechanics into high-paying field

A new, $850,000 aviation center at Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield is exactly the sort of expansion that will fuel economic progress in the state, Gov. Bruce Rauner said while visiting the college today.

“This great new facility enables Lincoln Land to train and graduate more aviation mechanics at a time when these skilled workers are in great demand,” Rauner said after attending a ribbon-cutting for the new Levi, Ray and Shoup Inc. Aviation Center. “The school already boasts a near 100 percent placement rate for these high-paying jobs.

“I applaud Mr. Dick Levi, CEO of Levi, Ray and Shoup, for the forward-thinking and generous donation that made this facility possible.”

In collaboration with the Springfield Airport Authority, Lincoln Land offers the only aviation mechanics program in central Illinois. It is housed at the Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport, and students there learn how to repair and maintain modern aircraft engines and airframes. Many students attending the Lincoln Land Community College aviation program are offered paid internships and jobs prior to program completion, school officials said.

The new center has over 5,000 square feet of classroom space and will serve up to 75 students, more than doubling the program’s previous top capacity of instructing 35 students in a roughly 2,000-square-foot space.

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“Mr. Levi recognized that expanding and modernizing our aviation center would allow more students to receive hands-on, technical job training in the repair and maintenance of aircraft, leading to rewarding and in-demand careers,” said Charlotte Warren, president of the community college. “Our entire community benefits from more students trained for more local jobs.”

According to the International Air Transportation Association, the industry will need to train and hire about 247,100 additional mechanics by 2018 and 420,000 by 2026. The numbers rise to 405,500 by 2018 and 739,000 by 2026 when retirement and changes in the market are considered. In May of 2016, the median annual wage for aircraft mechanics and service technicians was $60, 170, over $10,000 more than the $49, 630 national median wage reported by the U.S. Bureau of Statistics.

Rauner and Warren attended the ribbon cutting along with Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield. Other notable figures present were Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder, Sangamon County Board Vice Chairwoman Catie Sheehan and Frank Vala, Springfield Airport Authority chairman. Also there for today’s event was Dick Levi, the donor whose firm is the new center’s namesake.

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