House Bill To Boost Aerospace Workforce

 - October 31, 2006, 4:42 AM

The House of Representatives unanimously approved creation of a federal inter-agency aerospace revitalization task force, and the measure has been forwarded to the Senate for consideration. It will require no new expenditures.

The bill (H.R.758) charges 11 executive branch agencies, including NASA and the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, with identifying new aerospace workforce opportunities through a variety of scholarship, training and recruitment programs in partnership with the private sector and state governments.

“Where will our future aerospace workers come from?” asked Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.), who with Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.) introduced the bill earlier this year. Ehlers pointed out that 27 percent of the aerospace manufacturing workforce will become eligible for retirement in the next three years, while U.S. students currently rank near the bottom of industrialized countries in math and science test performance.

Each year, the task force, under the leadership of the Labor Department, would report to Congress on the status of federal policies designed to advance human capital development in the areas of science, engineering, technology and mathematics, as well as vocational trades.

In a recent report to President Bush, the bipartisan Commission on the Future of the United States Aerospace Industry recommended the establishment of a multi-agency strategy panel to counter “the nation’s apathy toward developing a technologically trained workforce.” The commission warned that this apathy could lead to “intellectual and industrial disarmament” and pose a “direct threat to our nation’s capability to continue as a world leader.”

Ehlers noted that the aerospace industry’s three core segments–national defense, civil aviation and space systems–each make a unique contribution to sustaining the nation’s global political and technological leadership.