Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) has unveiled a new childcare centre, run by La Petite Academy, for infant, toddler and preschool care.

In addition to providing childcare, the centre will give children a STEM-focused curriculum that connects academic skills to real-world applications. The centre also offers indoor and outdoor play areas and electives, like a Grow Fit programme that helps children build healthy habits. The facility is open to children of most airport workers, including construction.

Before construction of the childcare centre started, Allegheny County Airport Authority (ACAA) CEO Christina Cassotis surveyed the local community to find out what obstacles prevent people from working in aviation. Respondents cited childcare and transportation as the top two.

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic drove men and women out of the workforce, and women, especially women of colour, are not returning at the same rate as men, according to experts.

The new centre is a step towards bringing them back and building a more diverse and inclusive workforce at the airport, Cassotis said. She credited chief human capital officer Lisa Naylor for her work and vision on the project.


Taking care of people

Sean Sondreal, chief business development officer of La Petite’s parent company, Learning Care Group, recognised the adversity working parents face when it comes to finding childcare.

“Between 20 and 30% of childcare capacity has disappeared since the pandemic started. This was an issue five or six years ago; it’s a larger issue today,” he said.

Political support from elected officials in the region helped make the centre a reality after more than five years of development.

“The number of workers with school-age children has been steadily rising. As such, affordable child-care is an increasingly popular draw in getting more people – especially women – back into the workforce,” said State Rep. Valerie Gaydos in a statement.

“I applaud the airport for its family-friendly policies and for providing employees with access to affordable, quality childcare right onsite. This will not only help with expanding its workforce but enable parents to be only a few steps away their children. It’s a win-win for families and the airport.”

State tuition assistance is available for qualifying families sending their children to the centre.

“We have an obligation to make sure we take care of the people who build the buildings –that we build the builders as well as the buildings. Everyone deserves access to quality childcare,” Cassotis concluded.

Image: Beth Hollerich/ Pittsburgh International Airport