CNX Academy Returns to PIT as Students Explore Careers

Visit underscores airport’s innovative approach to workforce, partnerships

By Matt Neistei

Published November 13, 2023

Read Time: 3 mins


With about 6,000 employees, from engineers to pilots to carpenters to police officers, spread across the Pittsburgh International Airport campus, it’s an ideal location to talk about a wide variety of careers.

That’s one of the primary draws for CNX’s Mentorship Academy, which provides greater opportunities for high school students from historically marginalized communities in the region who do not plan to immediately attend a four-year college.

On Thursday, the Academy returned to PIT for the second time this year to give more than four dozen young men and women a look at some of the many careers available at the airport and connect with staff in those fields.

“We’re trying to do as much as we can to let people know about the opportunities out here,” said PIT CEO Christina Cassotis during welcoming remarks at the Hyatt Regency hotel at the airport.

Cassotis noted that two previous participants of the Academy enrolled in the airport’s nationally recognized PIT2Work workforce development program and are now working as apprentices in the construction trades just months after CNX’s previous visit.

An Academy student from California High School in California, Pa. said she plans to go into nursing but enjoys attending the tours because she learns more about other possible careers.

“It’s really interesting to hear and see what other people are doing because these are things you don’t ever really think about happening at the airport,” she said.

Students from CNX Academy made several stops around PIT’s campus during the tour, including a visit to the airport’s snow removal equipment to learn about available careers in airport operations and facilities maintenance. (Photo by Beth Hollerich)

Following Cassotis’ address, the students split into two groups, with one visiting various workspaces in the Landside Terminal and the other touring the new terminal construction program and the airfield by bus. After lunch, the groups switched tracks.

Before leaving the hotel, Hyatt General Manager Rob Rush spoke to the Landside group about careers in hospitality. Rush told the students he went to college for something completely different, but a job at the front desk at a hotel in Washington, D.C., hooked him.

He said the possibilities of advancing in the hospitality sector are numerous no matter where one starts; one of his managers started as a busboy.

“Never thought I would be here 30 years later talking to people the same age I was looking at jobs in the same field as me,” Rush said.

On the Landside tour, the students heard from several people including Elise Gomez, the airport’s manager of Customer Experience and Rusty Hottenfeller, director of Facilities Maintenance, who talked about job opportunities with the Airline Services department, including maintaining the eight miles of conveyor belts that make up PIT’s baggage system.

“Managing people and solving problems, that’s what I do,” he said.

The tours are part of ACAA’s multi-faceted partnership with CNX, which operates several gas wells on airport property and last year entered into an innovative agreement with the authority to take natural gas produced at the airport and convert it into alternative fuel using proprietary technology.

CNX is also the lead sponsor of the airport’s popular FlyBy 5K annual race on the airfield that has raised more than $100,000 for the authority’s charitable foundation.

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