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Nearly $1 million from a federal grant and local sources will go toward funding Kirkwood Community College's new aviation maintenance program, scheduled to enroll its first students in fall 2023. The bulk of the funding comes from an $800,000 federal grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration, as well as almost $200,000 from local sources. "This program seems like a natural fit for CID and our region," said Eastern Iowa Airport Director Marty Lenss, one of the initial backers of a joint partnership between the airport and community college, referencing similar work already being done at Collins Aerospace, the University of Iowa and BAE Systems. Kirkwood will lease an existing aircraft hangar from the Eastern Iowa Airport, and will use the grant money to create classroom space, a workshop and office space. State and local officials hope the new program, in development since late 2018 to early 2019, will help address workforce shortages in the airline industry. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall employment of aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians is projected to grow 11% from 2020 to 2030, resulting in 14,400 openings each year. "This announcement gives us a unique opportunity to highlight...the importance of skilled trades and the aviation industry to our collective economy," said Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) Director Debi Durham during her remarks. "Aviation activity in Iowa contributes approximately $5.4 billion to Iowa's economy and supports an estimated 47,223 jobs." The program is designed to be completed in two years. "There's going to be a little bit of lecture and a lot of hands-on work looking at real planes in our hangar space," said Aviation Maintenance Program Director Nathan Bellinger. "They will learn about engines, hydraulics, pneumatics and electronics. "Every employer and shop in the area that I talk to says they can't find mechanics," he added. "There's a lot of the workforce retiring in all aspects of aviation, including maintenance." Benjamin Coffman, a 2022 high school graduate currently taking a gap year, said he is excited about the opportunities this program could provide him, as well as the affordable nature of the program compared to other four-year institutions. "[Aviation] runs in my family," he said. "My dad buys and sells aircraft parts and my grandpa and uncle both used to work for United Airlines. I also went to aviation school in sixth grade. The program is going to be a lot more affordable for people to achieve their dreams, which I think is really special." Approximately 100 new jobs are expected to be created as a result of the aviation program. "This new program will open up doors of opportunity for so many with high earning potential, said Ms. Durham.