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Industry Comments on FAA Grant Program Implementation

ARSA and seven allied organizations filed comments Sept. 23 in response to the recent Federal Register notice regarding the FAA’s implementation of the new aviation workforce development grant program.

The program was created by Sec. 625 of the 2018 FAA reauthorization bill, which authorizes $5 million annually for grants of up to $500,000 for schools, governmental entities, aviation businesses and labor organizations that collaborate on projects to attract new technical talent to the aviation maintenance industry and train technicians. The same section of the FAA bill created a similar $5 million program to support pilot education.

On Sept. 8, the FAA published a Federal Register notice describing its plans to implement the maintenance grant program and inviting comment. The agency indicated at the time that it plans to publish a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) in November, after which time interested parties will be able to apply for grants.

ARSA led the coalition to create the maintenance grant program and is pleased the FAA is moving forward with implementation. However, the comments that ARSA submitted along with several other organizations expressed concerns about three issues in the FAA’s notice.

First, the FAA missed one of the key goals of the grant program, which is facilitate collaboration between schools, government, aviation companies and/or labor organizations. The law requires that grant applications be submitted jointly to encourage a collective approach to closing the skills gap. However, this fact is not clearly articulated in the FAA notice.

“One of the causes of the skills gap has been a misalignment between local industry needs and what students learn in school,” the comments said. “The program was designed to encourage industry and schools to work to together to identify necessary skills and design curricula to teach them, with government providing oversight to ensure the initiative properly served local needs. Because proposed initiatives must have buy-in from more than just the applicant, mandating collaboration will also act as a check to ensure government resources are spent effectively and that applications reflect a true consensus about local industry and community needs.”

Additionally, the law directs the FAA to engage with stakeholders in the program’s implementation. The notice, however, states that it and the related comment period satisfy the engagement requirement. ARSA and its allies called for more expansive involvement by industry and academia through the creation of formal stakeholder body to help guide FAA’s activities in this area.

Finally, the industry comments urged the FAA to raise the amount of the grant allowable for administrative expenses from five to 10 percent. This is in line with the standard amount allowable for these expenses in other grant programs.

ARSA was joined in its comments by the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the Aviation Technician Education Council, the Cargo Airline Association, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, the Experimental Aircraft Association, Helicopter Association International and the International Council of Air Shows.

To read ARSA’s comments, click here.

More on ARSA-supported workforce grant programs...

9/15/20 - Addressing FAA Workforce Grant Program Plans

September 15, 2020

In the Sept. 8 issue of the U.S. Federal Register, the FAA published a request for comments on its plan for administering the Aviation Maintenance Technical Workers Workforce Development Grant Program. The program was championed by ARSA and a broad coalition of industry interests in 2018, resulting in its inclusion in that year’s FAA reauthorization law. Since then, the association has lead a successful campaign to get congressional funding for the program and continued to press the agency to stand it up.

Sec. 625 of the 2018 FAA law authorized $5 million per year for each of two programs – one to support recruitment and training of maintenance technicians and another for pilot education.  Through the maintenance program, grants of up to $500,000 are available to schools, governmental entities, aviation businesses and/or unions that collaborate on projects to recruit and prepare individuals for maintenance careers.  Congress fully funded both grant programs for FY 2020.  Although lawmakers have not yet finalized transportation appropriations for FY 2021, the program appears be on track for full funding in the coming year fiscal year as well.

While the publication of the notice is a welcome and positive development – particularly the agency’s indication that it will issue a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) and begin accepting grant applications on Nov. 13 – ARSA is concerned about two issues:

(1) The notice does not sufficiently emphasize that the law requires maintenance grant applications to be submitted jointly be a school, government entity and aviation business or union.  One important goal of the legislation creating the program was to facilitate and encourage collaboration on aviation workforce development at the local level. 

(2) The notice dismisses the notion of a stakeholder body to support implementation of the grant programs.  The law requires the FAA, in reviewing and selecting applications, to “consult, as appropriate, with representatives of aircraft repair stations, design and production approval holders, air carriers,  labor organizations, business aviation, general aviation, educational institutions and other relevant aviation sectors.” However, the notice somewhat dismissively says that the notice itself is that consultation.  ARSA does not believe this is sufficient to satisfy the engagement requirement of the law and will urge FAA to establish a formal stakeholder committee.

ARSA is finalizing its comments and coordinating with its industry allies to submit commits raising those two points. The association encourages its members to submit their own comments to the FAA’s plan. The comment period is only open for a total of 15 days, which leaves little time for action but makes each substantive submission more important to the agency’s consideration.

As the comment process plays out, aviation businesses should use the Sept. 8 notice to begin preparing to respond to the NOFO in November. Though changes can still be made, the agency has provided its road map for successful grant applications. Utilizing the request for comment, entities planning to apply for grants can first in the door when applications are officially open.

To review the notice, click here. The FAA has created a public webpage covering its new grant programs for both technician and pilot career development (the request for comments on the pilot grant program is also posted in the Federal Register), which can be found at www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/ang/grants/awd.

 

9/7/20 - FAA Shows Plans for Maintenance Technician Grant Program

September 7, 2020

In the Sept. 8 issue of the U.S. Federal Register, the FAA published a request for comments on its plan for administering the Aviation Maintenance Technical Workers Workforce Development Grant Program. The program was championed by ARSA and a broad coalition of industry interests in 2018, resulting in its inclusion in that year’s FAA reauthorization law. Since then, the association has lead a successful campaign to get congressional funding for the program and continued to press the agency to stand it up.

The request for comments is a significant step towards actual grants flowing to aviation businesses, schools, government entities and labor organizations focusing on aviation career development. Five million dollars in total funding will be made available this year, disbursed in grants ranging from $25,000 to $500,000. The government’s intended schedule for collecting applications will begin with a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) on Nov. 13.

In addition to this timeline, the FAA’s Sept. 8 posting describes eligible applicants, overviews the application process and provides example criterion for successful applications. Interested parties should:

(1) Submit comments on the FAA’s plan. When the initial NOFO is released, it will be done in consideration of substantive comments provided in response to this request. While the program’s structure and primary details are unlikely to change, getting involved with the agency could help to tailor fine details related to how the final grants are awarded.

(2) Begin preparing to respond to the NOFO in November. Though changes can be made in response to comments, the agency has provided its road map for successful grant applications. Utilizing the request for comment, entities planning to apply for grants can use it to be first in the door when applications are officially open.

Stay tuned for more information as ARSA’s team reviews the posting. To review it, click here.

The FAA has created a public webpage covering its new grant programs for both technician and pilot career development (the request for comments on the pilot grant program is also working through the Federal Register), which can be found at www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/ang/grants/awd.

12/17/19 - Congress Fully Funds New Aviation Maintenance Workforce Grant Program

December 17, 2019

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.

ARSA 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 (see March and May 2018 updates below) 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.

The ball is now in the FAA’s court to get the grant programs up and running and release funds for worthy projects. While the agency has not indicated when it will start accepting applications, in a sign that the agency is moving in the right direction, the Nov. 26 Federal Register included a notice and request for comment required by the Paperwork Reduction Act regarding the collection by the FAA to select and oversee grant recipients. 

More information about the coalition effort and aviation maintenance skills gap is at http://arsa.org/legislative/grant-program-action-center.

11/26/19 - FAA Takes Small Step Towards Workforce Grants

November 26, 2019

On Nov. 26, the Federal Register published notices regarding new aviation workforce development grant programs created by Sec. 625 of last year’s FAA reauthorization law. The FAA requested comment regarding the collection of information from eligible entities by the agency to select and oversee grant recipients.  The notices are related to the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 and provide an estimate of the reporting burden for grant applicants and recipients.

The notice for the technician program can be found at www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/11/26/2019-25681/agency-information-collection-activities-requests-for-comments-clearance-of-a-new-approval-of.

The notice for the pilot education program can be found at www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/11/26/2019-25680/agency-information-collection-activities-requests-for-comments-clearance-of-a-new-approval-of.

The deadline for comment on each is Jan. 27, 2020.

While these notices do not represent the initiation of the programs, they suggest the FAA is moving in the right direction.  However, Congress has yet to appropriate the necessary FY 2020 money.  As previously reported (see below), the FY 2020 House Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies (T-HUD) bill contains full funding for both ($10 million total – $5 million each).  The Senate’s T-HUD package contains partial funding ($5 total).  The most recent appropriations continuing resolution expires on Dec. 20, so the next few weeks will be crucial in determining final FY 2020 spending levels.

Keep the pressure on Congress and FAA to fully fund and initiate these important programs.  Advocacy resources (including the most recent industry coalition letter to Congress) can be found at arsa.org/legislative/grant-program-action-center.

9/30/19 - Grant Funding in the Works, Needs Help

September 30, 2019

On Sept. 19, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed its version of the 2020 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies (T-HUD) appropriations bill. It included a total of $5 million in funding for both the technician and related pilot education grant programs authorized in last year’s FAA law – half of the total authorized level. In June, the House version included full funding for both programs ($10 million total).

The fact that there’s money in both bills significantly increases the likelihood that the program will be funded for FY 2020.  The big question is whether Congress will provide the full amount or something less.  Use the information on this page and the guidance/resources on the association’s related action center (linked below) to help keep pressure on to turn the grant programs into a fully-funded reality.

4/6/19 - FAA 'Committed' to Workforce Program but Needs Encouragement

April 16, 2019

On April 11, ARSA received the FAA’s response to the Feb. 5 coalition letter regarding funding for the new aviation workforce development grant programs created by Sec. 625 of last year’s FAA reauthorization law. The original letter had been coordinated by the association and sent to both Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney.

Annie Andrews, the assistant FAA administrator for human resource management, wrote in her response that “The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the FAA are committed to implementing the provisions of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 (P.L. 115-254) focused on addressing the aviation workforce shortages.” The letter also said, “The U.S. DOT and FAA are fully supportive of the provisions outlined in Section 625 of P.L.115-254” and that FAA looks forward “to working with the aviation industry and educational institutions to meet the growing demand for a well-trained aviation workforce.”

However, Andrews also wrote that, “We [the FAA] recognize that the current FAA budget does not include funding for the initiation of the aviation workforce development programs. We have committed to working with the DOT and the Office of Management and Budget to request funding and incorporate the grant programs into the FAA FY2021 work plan and budget.” In other words, the FAA doesn’t plan to initiate the programs until FY 2021 at the earliest.”

ARSA and its allies are committed to getting funding for the grant programs included in the FY 2020 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies appropriations bills so the FAA can start making grants in FY 2020. It’s up to us to make initiation of the grant programs a near-term priority for Congress and the FAA.

In that regard, our champions in the House and Senate have coordinated bipartisan “Dear Colleague” letters to the appropriators requesting full funding. If your facility is in the district of a member of the House or Senate appropriations committees (click the links to review each committees’ members), now is the time to engage. All the information you need to send a quick note to your congressional representatives about the grant program is in the Workforce Legislative Action Center found at: arsa.org/legislative/grant-program-action-center.

If you have questions or comments, please contact ARSA Executive Vice President Christian Klein at christian.klein@arsa.org.

To read the FAA’s response, which includes the original industry letter, click here.

4/9/19 - Call To Action – Appropriating Workforce Grant Money

April 9, 2019

ARSA’s signature legislative achievement of 2018 was getting language into the FAA bill creating a new $5 million per year grant program to support maintenance workforce development (see below for full updates). With the program authorized, the top priority is getting money appropriated.

More than 50 members of Congress have already signed on to letters being coordinated by Reps. Graves and Lipinski and Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) to House and Senate appropriations leaders in support of funding. The coalition ARSA built last year around the program has also grown to more than 40 organizations, including several interested in a similar program for pilot education that was also included in the FAA bill.

ARSA members, allies and supporters must get active in this effort, particularly in the Senate. Appropriations requests must be submitted immediately. Here’s how:

(1) Go to ARSA’s Workforce Legislative Action Center at arsa.org/legislative/grant-program-action-center.

(2) Find the section called “What Can You Do to Help?” (You can read the background and issue updates if you’d like.)

(3) Follow the steps and use the basic message template provided on the page (editing as you see fit). Be sure to report your efforts back to ARSA.

2/6/19 - Aviation Industry Urges Full Funding for New Workforce Programs

February 6, 2019

More than three dozen organizations representing a cross section of the aviation industry are urging the Trump administration to make aerospace workforce development a priority in the president’s 2020 budget.

In a letter sent to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney on Feb. 5, the coalition of 40 associations and unions urged the administration to seek full funding for the aviation technician and pilot recruitment and education programs created by Sec. 625 of last year’s Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization law.

The coalition – which includes organizations representing airlines, maintainers, manufacturers, general aviation, airports, mechanics, pilots and communities with prominent aviation sectors – cited numerous studies pointing to a severe shortage of pilots and aviation technical workers to support maintenance. Boeing, for example, projects that in North America alone, 206,000 new pilots and 189,000 new technicians will be needed over the next two decades. The shortage of pilots and technicians threatens to undermine the growth and competitiveness of one of the most important sectors of the U.S. economy, the letter said.

The organizations are asking the administration to request Congress appropriate the full $5 million authorized for each of the two new grant programs, which are designed to facilitate collaboration between schools, state and local government entities, businesses and labor organizations to attract and educate technicians and pilots.

Under the new law, aviation technical workforce grants could be used for scholarships, apprenticeships, establishing new training programs, purchasing equipment for schools and supporting career transition for members of the armed forces. The new grant program for pilot education would support the creation and delivery of curriculum designed to provide high school students with meaningful science, technology, engineering, math and aviation education.

To read the complete letter, click here. It was coordinated by ARSA and Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and signed by the following additional organizations:

Aerospace Industries Association
Aerospace Maintenance Council
Aircraft Electronics Association
Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association
Airlines for America
Air Medical Operators Association
Airports Council International – North America
Allied Pilots Association
American Association of Airport Executives
Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International
Aviation Council of Pennsylvania
Aviation Suppliers Association
Aviation Technician Education Council
Cargo Airline Association
Coalition of Airline Pilots Associations
Experimental Aircraft Association
Flight School Association of North America
General Aviation Manufacturers Association
Greater Miami Aviation Association
Helicopter Association International
International Air Transport Association
International Brotherhood of Teamsters
International Council of Air Shows
Modification and Replacement Parts Association
National Agricultural Aviation Association
National Air Carrier Association
National Air Transportation Association
National Association of State Aviation Officials
National Business Aviation Association
National League of Cities
NetJets Association of Shared Aircraft Pilots
Professional Aviation Maintenance Association
Recreational Aviation Foundation
Regional Air Cargo Carriers Association
Regional Airline Association
South Florida Aviation Maintenance Council
Veterans Airlift Command
Westchester Aircraft Maintenance Association

10/22/18 - Move DOT and Congress to AMT Grant Program Action

October 22, 2018

ARSA, its members and allies successfully lobbied for an “historic victory” through this year’s FAA reauthorization process. That victory included the authorization of a five-year pilot program that will provide annual grants of up to $500,000 to business or unions, schools and governmental entities that partner to pursue creative ways to recruit and retain new aviation maintenance technicians.

The policy work is far from complete. The Department of Transportation must now initiate the program and Congress must appropriate the money necessary to provide the grants, which could be available by the end of 2019 if industry moves quickly to encourage action.

The association is already continuing its leadership of aviation-industry stakeholders to keep the process moving. To support the effort, ARSA members should take action now in order to keep DOT and Congress on track and be ready to take advantage of grant money once its available:

(1) Begin having conversations with other community stakeholders to lay the foundation for a joint application, thinking creatively about ways to could use the federal money.

(2) Contact the members of Congress who supported the program to thank them and urge them to work with DOT to initiate the program and with their colleagues in Congress to appropriate the necessary funds.

For resources to help – ARSA has done the legwork already – visit the Workforce Legislation Action Center (linked below). Be sure to bookmark this page, as it will be used to share current information and provide further instructions for industry action as this grassroots advocacy effort develops.

9/24/18 - AMT Grant Program Makes it into FAA Bill

September 24, 2018

On Sept. 22, leadership of the Senate Commerce and House Transportation & Infrastructure Committees released the “final” version of the pre-negotiated FAA reauthorization bill. In a message to association members, Christian A. Klein, ARSA executive vice president and the association’s chief lobbyist, hailed the legislation as “a big win for ARSA and the aviation maintenance community.”

Central to that “big win” was the successful inclusion of the association-supported AMT grant program. To learn about the effort to get the program included in the bill and gather basic information about how it will be structured, review the updates below.

For a complete update on the FAA bill, visit arsa.org/faa-reauthorization-2018.

7/24/18 - Using FAA Bill to Help Maintenance Workforce

July 24, 2018

In a letter to leaders of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, 29 organizations urged that legislation to create a new aviation maintenance workforce development program be included the Senate’s FAA reauthorization package.

The workforce bill, S. 2506, was introduced in March by a bipartisan group of senators led by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.). It would create a new grant program administered by the FAA to attract and train the next generation of aviation technical workers. Twenty-one senators have cosponsored S. 2506. A parallel House bill (H.R. 5701) introduced by Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), has 16 cosponsors.

The July 20 letter was coordinated by ARSA and signed by 28 allied organizations representing maintainers, airlines, manufacturers, business and general aviation, schools, labor and communities with significant aviation sectors. According to responses to the association’s 2018 member survey, difficulty finding technical talent is one of the biggest strategic threats facing the maintenance industry.

FAA legislation is expected on the Senate floor in the coming weeks and ARSA and its allies are mounting a full court press to get S. 2506 into the bill.

Get Involved – Tell Your Elected Officials to Support the Aviation Maintenance Workforce Grant Program

5/22/18 - Tell Congress to Support Maintenance Workforce Bill

May 22, 2018

Members of the aviation maintenance community need to join ARSA’s aggressive effort to include the association’s workforce development legislation in the FAA reauthorization process. The bill would create a new grant program to develop skills demanded by repair stations. So far, 20 national interest groups and labor unions have joined the effort and momentum is building on Capitol Hill (see below for updates on the House and Senate versions of the bill).

Aviation businesses can (and should) help add more cosponsors in the House and Senate and help demonstrate support for the proposal to congressional leadership. The association action webpage (click here) makes it easy to send notes to elected officials encouraging them to cosponsor the bill (or to thank them if they already have).

5/9/18 - Bipartisan House Bill Takes Aim at Aviation Maintenance Skills Gap

May 9, 2018

A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced legislation on May 8 to address one of the most pressing challenges facing the U.S. aviation industry: the chronic technician shortage.

The bill sponsored by Reps. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) and Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.) is the House companion to Senate legislation introduced in March. It creates a new program administered by the FAA to provide grants of up to $500,000 to support aviation maintenance workforce development activities. The legislation incentivizes local collaboration by requiring that grant applications be jointly submitted by a business or labor organization, school and governmental entity.

Analysis by Boeing suggests that 118,000 new technicians will be needed in North America over the next two decades. The consulting firm Oliver Wyman has forecast that demand for aviation maintenance technicians will outstrip supply by 2022.

The results of ARSA’s 2018 member survey further underscore the need for the legislation: More than 80 percent of respondents reported difficulty finding qualified technicians and more than half of responding companies have unfilled positions. As a result, companies say they are taking longer to complete work for customers, choosing not to add new technical capabilities and that in some cases turning down new business. ARSA estimates its members will forego as much $642.5 million in revenue this year if the projected 2,500 vacant positions at member companies remain unfilled.

Get Involved – Tell Your Elected Officials to Support the Aviation Maintenance Workforce Grant Program

The aviation workforce legislation has broad support from business and labor. A May 8 letter coordinated by ARSA in support of the House bill was signed by 19 other leading organizations, including the Aerospace Industries Association, the Aerospace Maintenance Council, the Aircraft Electronics Association, the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Airlines for America, the Aviation Suppliers Association, the Aviation Technician Education Council, the Cargo Airline Association, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, Helicopter Association International, the Modification and Replacement Parts Association, the National Air Carrier Association, the National Air Transportation Association, the National Association of State Aviation Officials, the National Business Aviation Association, the Professional Aviation Maintenance Association, the Regional Air Cargo Carriers Association and the Regional Airline Association. The National League of Cities has also voiced its support for the proposal and is a member of the ARSA-led coalition.

“The skills gap in the aviation maintenance industry is reaching crisis proportions,” ARSA Executive Vice President Christian Klein said. “It threatens to undermine both the efficiency of our aviation system and the ability of U.S. aerospace companies to seize opportunities in the growing global marketplace.”

“We sincerely appreciate Representatives Graves, Lipinski, Mullin and Lawrence taking the lead on this important issue and look forward to working with them and our industry allies to enact their bill into law.”

3/7/18 - ARSA-Supported Bill Takes Aim at Aviation Maintenance Skills Gap in Senate

March 7, 2018

Legislation introduced on March 7 by a bipartisan group of U.S. senators aims to address a major threat to the long-term health of the U.S. aviation maintenance sector: the persistent technician shortage.

The bill authored by Senators James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) would establish a new pilot program to train maintenance professionals, help veterans transition to civilian careers and recruit new technicians. Grants of up to $500,000 per year would be available to business or unions, schools and governmental entities that partner to pursue creative solutions to one of the aviation community’s most pressing strategic challenges.

“We’re extremely grateful that Senators Inhofe, Blumenthal, Cantwell and Moran have taken up this cause,” Christian A. Klein, ARSA executive vice president, said.

“If there’s one issue keeping ARSA’s members awake at night, it’s where to find the next generation of technical talent. This bill is an important step in the right direction. It will incentivize local cooperation to develop new aerospace professionals and help veterans and others transition to careers in this high-tech, growing industry,” Klein said.

The aviation maintenance industry employs more than 275,000 American workers, contributes $44 billion to the U.S. economy and helps ensure the safety of civil aircraft operating world-wide. The industry’s global footprint is expected to grow from around $77 billion to more than $114 billion over the next decade.

However, a shortage of technical workers could make it difficult for U.S. firms to capitalize on those opportunities. Oliver Wyman’s CAVOK Division, a leading aviation consulting firm, projects that demand for technicians will outstrip supply beginning in 2022. Data from ARSA suggests that the impact is already being felt: More than 80 percent of respondents to ARSA’s 2018 member survey report difficulty finding qualified technicians and more than two thirds of responding companies have unfilled positions. As a result, companies say it is taking longer to complete work for customers, that their companies are not adding new technical capabilities and in some cases are turning down new business.

“Our aviation industry needs skilled workers and the aviation maintenance industry provides high-paying, high-skilled jobs across the country,” Sen. Inhofe said. “Aviation is an economic multiplier, connecting local communities and cities in support of commercial activity and generating tourism revenue. We can’t afford to let these skilled jobs go unfilled. This bill will make it possible to close the skills gap by incentivizing businesses, labor groups, educational institutions and local governments to develop innovative ways to recruit and educate the next generation of America’s aviation workforce. I applaud the efforts of [ARSA] and their member companies like AAR and NORDAM for their continued advocacy for aviation maintenance issues before Congress.”

Given the scale of the threat to the industry, 17 leading aviation industry organizations, representing all segments of the aviation industry joined a letter coordinated by ARSA in support of the bill and delivered to the sponsoring senators on March 5.

“The U.S. aviation industry is a diamond in the crown of our economy. Working together, manufacturers, operators, maintainers, labor organizations, schools and workers have built an industry that provides unprecedented mobility for people and goods. Your legislation will help ensure our member organizations have the technical professionals they need to grow, compete globally, and, most importantly, continue to ensure the safety of civil aviation aircraft,” the organizations said.

ARSA is now working with its members and allied organizations to build support for the legislation and get it enacted this year, likely as part of the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill.

In addition to ARSA, the following industry organizations signed on to the March 5 support letter:

Aerospace Industries Association
Aerospace Maintenance Council
Aircraft Electronics Association
Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association
Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association
Airlines for America
Aviation Suppliers Association
Aviation Technician Education Council
Cargo Airline Association
General Aviation Manufacturers Association
Helicopter Association International
Modification and Replacement Parts Association
National Air Carrier Association
National Air Transportation Association
Professional Aviation Maintenance Association
Regional Airline Association

To review the bill, click here.


To see ARSA’s other updates related to technical workforce development, click here.



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