Workforce shortages in the aviation and aerospace industry can have a significant impact on areas such as safety, availability of commercial flights, national security, innovation and local economies. Last month a House Small Business subcommittee heard from industry representatives on how providing more training opportunities, such as apprenticeships developed in partnership with community colleges, could help to replenish the workforce pipeline.

ariplane in applied tech

Eric Fanning, president and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), which represents more than 300 aerospace and defense companies ranging from family-run businesses to multinational corporations, said during an Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Workforce Development Subcommittee hearing on May 12 that there are several ways Congress could address these needs.

They include: investing more in STEM education, reskilling current industry employees for new technologies, enhancing training efforts to expand talent pools, and increasing diversity and expanding equity and inclusion efforts within the aerospace and defense (A&D) workforce.

Fanning said Congress should increase federal support for apprenticeships and career technical education. He cited as an example a unique apprenticeship that AIA-member Certified Aviation Services (CAS) launched with San Bernardino Valley College in California. Through the program, students work on various commercial aircraft projects, from sheet metal to building avionic technology, and other necessary technical training skills needed to attain an airframe and power plant mechanics license.

“This apprenticeship program allows community college students to develop and grow into high salary. Careers in the world of large aircraft projects while CAS develops a continuous pipeline of prospective future employees,” Fanning said. “The success of CAS’s innovative program so far allowed them to start expanding the program to community colleges in Alabama and Nevada. With the help of additional federal and state support, successful programs like this one could continue to expand nationwide, creating a diverse next-generation talent for the A&D industry."