House Panel Backs Aerospace Training

 - November 2, 2006, 7:11 AM

The House Education and Workforce Committee endorsed a proposal calling for the Labor Department to establish a government program for aerospace workforce job training.

In its report on the Job Training Improvement Act of 2005 (H.R.27), the committee encouraged the secretary of labor “to fund a pilot project focused on the opportunities for workforce development in the high-growth, high-wage aerospace industry.” Committee members also included in the report language that highlights aerospace industry contributions to U.S. economic and national security.

The report also reflected guidelines written into legislation that Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-Mich.) introduced in February to create an inter-agency task force on “aerospace workforce recruitment, training and cultivation.” That bill, H.R. 758, directs 11 federal agencies led by the Labor Department to form a task force to develop strategies to expand public and private aerospace job-training programs.

The Ehlers bill specifically requires the task force to report to Congress each year on the status of federal policies and partnerships designed to advance training programs in the areas of science, engineering, technology, mathematics and skilled trades.

The Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) has endorsed the legislation. Association president and CEO John Douglass, who served on the bipartisan Commission on the Future of the United States Aerospace Industry, said “This legislation would bring together the most talented minds in the federal government to produce a national plan for increasing the number of students who choose aerospace-related scientific or engineering careers.”

In its November 2002 report to President Bush, the commission recommended the establishment of a multi-agency strategy panel to counter what it termed “the nation’s apathy toward developing a scientifically and 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.”

Douglass also pointed out that the bill responds to a significant shortage of younger, technically skilled professionals in the aerospace industry. The average American aerospace employee is now more than 50 years old. In 2008, 27 percent of aerospace workers will become eligible for retirement.