ARSA Workforce Legislation Action Center
The U.S. aviation industry is facing a technician and pilot shortage of crisis proportions. ARSA is working with industry and congressional allies to tackle the problem. As part of this effort, ARSA led a coalition that created a new aviation maintenance workforce grant program as part of the 2018 FAA reauthorization law. The law included a similar program to support pilot education. This page provides more information about the grant programs and resources to help you make sure they’re successful.
What’s the Problem?
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. Those vacancies are having real consequences, increasing time to complete work, driving up overtime and training costs and preventing new business development. ARSA projects the technician shortage is costing the U.S. aviation maintenance industry $118.416 million per month ($1.421 billion per year) in lost revenue.”
If the technician and pilot shortages persist, they will undermine the efficiency of the U.S. aviation system and make it more difficult for U.S. companies to capitalize on opportunities in the growing global aerospace market.
What Are the Details of the Aviation Maintenance Workforce Grant Program?
Recognizing the problem, aviation industry leaders and a bipartisan group of lawmakers decided to act. Sec. 625 of the 2018 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization law (Public Law No: 115-254) created two new Department of Transportation-(DOT) administered grant programs which have been endorsed by more than 40 leading aviation organizations.
The program for technicians supports a wide variety of aviation maintenance workforce development recruitment and training activities. Grants 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; or
- Otherwise enhance aviation maintenance technical education or the aviation maintenance industry workforce.
The goal of the technician program is to incentivize collaboration between key stakeholders and grant applications must be jointly submitted by business or union, school and state or local governmental entity.
The grant program for pilots supports the creation and delivery of curriculum designed to provide high school students with meaningful aviation education to prepare them to become aircraft pilots, aerospace engineers, or unmanned aircraft systems operators, as well as the professional development of teachers using the curriculum.
The programs are authorized at $5 million each for five years starting in 2019 and can provide grants of up to $500,000.
The good news is that Congress appropriated full funding for both the technician and pilot grant programs as part of the FY 2020 appropriations package signed into law in December 2019. The onus is now on the FAA to initiate the programs. The publication of Paperwork Reduction Act-related Federal Register notices in November 2019 suggests FAA is moving in the right direction. In addition to ensuring the agency structures to program in accordance with legislative intent, our coalition will also be working in 2020 to ensure that the programs are once again fully funded next year as part of the FY 2021 appropriations process.
If you’re interested in applying for a grant, keep watching this page for more information. You should also begin having conversations with other stakeholders in your community to lay the foundation for a joint technician grant program application and think creatively about you could use the federal money.
If you’re concerned about the aviation workforce crisis and want the grant programs to be successful, please contact your representatives and senators to urge them to appropriate the necessary funds (see below).
What Can You Do to Help?
ARSA is leading a coalition to work with DOT to initiate the program and get it funded by Congress. You can help that effort by sending an email to your representative and senators’ offices urging them to appropriate the necessary money. To do so:
(1) Identify your representative and senators by going to https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members.
(2) Click here to download ARSA’s Excel file with contact information for the staff members in each congressional office responsible for appropriations, aviation and education policy issues. The list is sorted by state, but you can sort by any of the fields at the top of each column. To find the name and contact information for the staffers in your representative and senators’ congressional offices, simply find the elected official’s name in “Column C” of the table.
(4) Create a new email.
(5) Copy and paste the email address of the appropriate House or Senate staffers into the “to” line of the email and put email@example.com in the “cc” line.
(6) Copy the following draft note into the body of the email and edit as appropriate (see highlighted fields throughout the message):
Subject: Appropriate full funding for aviation workforce grant programs
Dear [INSERT STAFFER NAMES]:
The U.S. aviation industry is facing a technician and pilot shortage that threatens to undermine the growth and competitiveness of one of the most important sectors of our economy.
Sec. 625 of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 (Public Law 115-254) created two new grant programs to recruit and train the next generation of aerospace technicians and pilots. Congress fully funded those programs ($5 million each) for FY 2020. That’s great news, but I’m writing in my capacity as TITLE of COMPANY in CITY and on behalf of the YOURSTATE aviation industry to request your assistance in securing full funding for the programs again next year as part of the FY 2021 appropriations process.
The resources provided through these temporary initiatives will incentivize businesses, labor and pilot organizations, schools, and governmental entities to work together to pursue innovative new strategies to develop technical talent and encourage our next generation of pilots to pursue careers in aviation. This, in turn, will help ensure the continued global leadership of America’s aerospace sector.
Boeing’s 2018 Pilot & Technician Outlook for aviation jobs projects that 206,000 new pilots and 189,000 new technicians will be needed in North America over the next two decades. To put the pilot forecast into perspective, North America will need slightly more than 10,000 new pilots each year on average to keep pace with air service demand and retirements. However, according to the FAA’s airmen statistics, just 5,437 original airmen Airline Transport Certificates (the certificate required to serve as a Part 121 airline pilot) were issued in the first 11 months of 2018. Failure to produce more pilots will further imperil air service to small communities, which are most vulnerable to air service losses due to the shortage.
Similarly, the consulting firm Oliver Wyman has forecast that demand for aviation maintenance technicians will outstrip supply by 2022. The Aviation Technician Education Council recently determined that new entrants make up just two percent of the aviation technician population annually, while 30 percent of the workforce is at or near retirement age. Respondents to the Aeronautical Repair Station Association’s 2018 member survey identified the technician shortage as the biggest strategic threat to the $47 billion maintenance industry. More than 80 percent of respondents reported difficulty finding qualified technicians and more than half of responding companies had unfilled positions.
OPTIONAL: Our company has been directly affected by the technician [AND/OR pilot] shortage as follows: INSERT DETAILS.
The newly created grant program for aviation technicians will address the challenge by supporting aviation maintenance and manufacturing workforce initiatives, including scholarships, apprenticeships, establishing new training programs, purchasing equipment for schools and supporting career transition for members of the armed forces. To incentivize collaboration to solve the technician shortage, the law requires grant applications to be jointly submitted by a school, local governmental entity, and a business or labor organization.
The new grant program for pilot education will support the creation and delivery of curriculum designed to provide high school students with meaningful science, technology, engineering, math and aviation education. The program has the potential to be a solution to the pilot shortage by reaching a diverse new audience and encouraging our nation’s youth to become the next generation of commercial, general aviation, drone or military pilots.
Your leadership in securing full funding for these programs (which have been endorsed by 40 leading aviation associations and labor organizations) will build on the progress from the recent FAA law and help ensure our nation’s aviation industry will have the technical professionals and pilots needed to meet the growing demand for a well-trained aviation workforce.
Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to working with you on this issue in the weeks and months ahead.
(7) Send the email.
(8) If you haven’t heard back within a week, resend the email. (You may also call the congressional office using the telephone number in the Excel file.)
Who Should You Contact for More Information About This Issue?
If you have questions about the grant program or contacting Congress, please contact ARSA Executive Vice President Christian Klein at firstname.lastname@example.org or 703.739.9543 x 106.