Cantwell, Bipartisan Senators Introduce Bill to Help Train Next Generation of Aviation Maintenance Workers

Bill will create Aviation Maintenance Workforce Development Pilot Program to fill shortage of aviation maintenance workers

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the top Democrat on the Senate Aviation Subcommittee, Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Jerry Moran (R-KS) introduced the Aviation Maintenance Workforce Development Pilot Program, bipartisan legislation that will help close the skills gap and fill aviation maintenance jobs.

This bipartisan legislation comes as the U.S. aviation maintenance industry is confronting a severe shortage of technical workers, leaving good-paying jobs unfilled and making it difficult for companies to meet growing customer demand. Overall, the industry employs more than 270,000 people and contributes more than $44 billion to the economy. 

“Across the country, there is a severe shortage of workers with the skills to repair airplanes,” Senator Cantwell said. “These good-paying jobs are essential to keep Washington state at the forefront of the 21st century commercial aviation industry. This bill will create and expand training programs, like the one at Everett Community College, to skill Washingtonians to meet the needs of our state’s industry-leading aerospace businesses.”

Specifically, the proposal creates an Aviation Maintenance Workforce Development Pilot Program within the Federal Aviation Administration and authorizes grants to support technical education and career development.  The bill would encourage collaboration between businesses, schools, and local government by requiring that each grant application be supported and submitted on behalf of all three of those types of entities.

Eligible programs would include projects that enhance aviation maintenance technical education or the aviation maintenance industry workforce and could support programs like those at Everett Community College, Big Bend Community College, and South Seattle Community College. This could include new educational programs, scholarships, apprenticeships, targeted support in economically disadvantaged geographic areas, or career transitional support, including for members of the Armed Forces.

The legislation was overwhelmingly praised by the aviation industry:

“Aviation maintenance professionals are proud of the work they’re doing every day to make air travel the safest form of transportation,” Jim Perdue, vice president of Sonico in Moses Lake and a member of the Aeronautical Repair Station Association’s board of directors said.  “By helping to move this legislation forward, Sen. Cantwell and her colleagues are opening up doors for more people in Washington state and elsewhere to pursue careers in this exciting, high-tech, growing sector.”

“We’re extremely grateful that Senators Inhofe, Blumenthal, Moran, and Cantwell have taken up this cause,” said Christian A. Klein, executive vice president of the Aeronautical Repair Station Association.  “If there’s one issue keeping our 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 sector.”

“The Aviation Maintenance Workforce Development Pilot Program represents an important step forward for America’s aerospace industry,” said David Silver, Vice President of Civil Aviation for the Aerospace Industries Association. “Today’s success is built on our 2.4 million employees.  We must maintain that strength for the future. This legislation, by focusing on technical acumen, promotes the workforce of tomorrow and solidifies the foundation of our nation’s security and prosperity.”

“The National League of Cities thanks Senators Inhofe, Blumenthal, Moran and Cantwell for their bipartisan leadership on this important piece of workforce legislation,” said National League of Cities President Mayor Mark Stodola of Little Rock, Arkansas. “We must close the gap between supply and demand across all infrastructure sectors to ensure our citizens are prepared for high quality jobs that provide critical services to our communities. The skill sets for aviation maintenance are vital to the economic vitality of cities across America.” The National League of Cities also sent a letter of support for the legislation. View here.

Additionally, 17 professional organizations in the aviation industry also support the Aviation Workforce Development Pilot Program, writing in part: “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.” Read the full letter here.