Parents who work at Pittsburgh International Airport can now drop off their children at a brand-new childcare center, which officially opened its doors Sept. 5.
While today was the first day for children, many PIT parents toured the center before it opened – including last month during a ribbon-cutting ceremony, where the new center was officially unveiled.
Breaking down barriers
Providing a childcare option on the same site as an employee’s workplace helps strengthen parents’ work-life balance and supports workforce development. The goal is to break down barriers preventing working parents from starting careers at the airport.
“Being a working parent and dealing with childcare issues is huge stress,” Allegheny County Airport Authority CEO Christina Cassotis said. “This is our contribution to getting more and more working parents, more and more peace of mind, as they build careers and build families.”
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, parents have left the workforce, and finding childcare is one of the largest obstacles stopping them from coming back. The new childcare center, operated by La Petite Academy, invites them to return. As construction on the TMP is underway at PIT, the airport needs a strong, diverse workforce now more than ever.
“We have a unique opportunity to serve the regional economy with a diversity of jobs including labor and the building trades as we build this new terminal,” County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said during the ribbon cutting. “Unions need more skilled workers for the many construction projects that are underway in this region.”
Employee routines changing for the better
ACAA employees Ben and Trudi Shertzer enrolled their son Hunter in the center months ago. In the meantime, Hunter has stayed with a babysitter. Now that the center is finally opened, the Shertzer’s routine looks a little bit different.
“It makes it a lot easier on the parents. It’s super convenient,” Ben said. “You’re already on your way to work. You’re stopping at a location on-site, and you can check on him at any point in the day.”
Hunter was already excited to be in a new space. “Last we saw him, he was playing with the toys and playing with the staff. He was having fun,” Ben said.
Hunter was joined by 3-year-old Charlotte. David Storer, ACAA Director of Business Development, brought her to the center on Sept. 5 for her first day too. Storer said the new childcare center arrived at the perfect time for his family.
“There were very few options in the area, and wait lists were long and not convenient,” Storer said. “This is going to make things so much easier. I can bring (her) with me every day, take her home every day. It will probably save me hours a week.”
Changing the industry
The center is open to most airport workers, including construction staff, and it is available for infant through preschool aged children. For now, the childcare center will be open Monday through Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and can host up to 61 children at a time.
PIT is one of the only airports in the country to offer an on-site childcare option. Other airports plan to follow suit in hopes of expanding their workforces too. Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport is in the process of constructing their own childcare center now. Meanwhile, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky and Orlando airports are considering building childcare centers to help recruit and retain a strong workforce.
Nation media has picked up on the trend. NBC News featured the center at PIT in an August report.
Cassotis considers the new childcare center a critical piece in the airport’s ongoing workforce development efforts. “We look at this from the lens of attraction and retention in an industry that needs to do better,” she said. “People need access to quality childcare.”