In a major victory for the aviation maintenance industry, the FY 2020 appropriations deal unveiled by House and Senate negotiators Dec. 16 includes full funding for a new aviation technician workforce development program.
Section 625 of last year’s FAA reauthorization bill authorized $5 million annually for five years to support the education and recruitment of aviation maintenance technical workers and the development of the industry’s workforce. It also created a parallel program, authorized at the same level, to support pilot education.
Congress created the programs to address the workforce crisis confronting the U.S. aviation sector. An analysis by Boeing suggests that airlines in North America will need 189,000 new technicians and 206,000 new pilots over the next two decades. The consulting firm Oliver Wyman has forecast that demand for aviation maintenance technicians will outstrip supply by 2022. More than two-thirds of U.S. companies responding to ARSA’s 2019 member survey reported vacant technician positions.
The Aeronautical Repair Station Association, a trade group representing aviation maintenance and manufacturing companies, led the coalition that created the maintenance grant program and lobbied for its funding. More than 40 national, state and local organizations representing all segemnts of the aviation industry supported the effort. The original sponsors of the bills that created the technician grants were Sens. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Reps. Sam Graves (D-Mo.), Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.) and MarkWayne Mullen (R-Okla.).
“We’re proud of what we’ve accomplish with our coalition partners and pleased that Congress has acted in a truly bipartisan way to tackle a problem with significant consequences for both the aerospace community and the broader U.S. economy,” ARSA Executive Vice President Christian A. Klein said. “The new program will encourage local partnerships and innovative thinking about how recruit and train the maintenance professionals the aviation industry needs to thrive in 21st century.”
The technician program supports a wide variety of aviation maintenance workforce development recruitment and training activities. Grants of up to $500,000 may be used to:
- Establish new educational programs that teach technical skills used in aviation maintenance, including purchasing equipment, or to improve existing such programs.
- Establish scholarships or apprenticeships for individuals pursuing employment in the aviation maintenance industry.
- Support outreach about careers in the aviation maintenance industry to primary, secondary, and post-secondary school students or to communities underrepresented in the industry.
- Support educational opportunities related to aviation maintenance in economically disadvantaged geographic areas.
- Support transition to careers in aviation maintenance, including for members of the Armed Forces.
- Otherwise enhance aviation maintenance technical education or the aviation maintenance industry workforce.
The maintenance grant program was designed to facilitate public-private collaboration and innovation. In order to be eligible, a grant application must be supported by an aviation business or union, a school and a governmental entity.