A bipartisan group of House lawmakers introduced another bill to address the looming aviation maintenance technician shortage, highlighting the attention the issue has before Congress. The bill, the Aviation Maintenance Workforce Development Pilot Program Bill (H.R.5701), is designed to encourage government, industry, and academia to work together to develop strategies to develop technical talent.
The bill would create a pilot program that would offer $500,000 in grants for aviation maintenance workforce development activities. Applications must be jointly submitted by a business or labor organization, school, and government entity. The FAA would administer the program.
Introduced last week by Rep. Sam Graves (R-Missouri) with co-sponsors Daniel Lipinski, (D-Illinois), Markwayne Mullin, (R-Oklahoma), and Brenda Lawrence (D-Michigan), the bill is similar to legislation that Sen. James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) unveiled in the Senate in March. But the House bill differs in that it permits high schools to participate. The legislation ranks among numerous workforce initiatives introduced or offered over the past year; several of those measures have been included in comprehensive FAA reauthorization legislation pending in Congress.
Graves noted that in four years, the industry is expected to experience maintenance technician shortage. “All of aviation, from general aviation to large commercial operations, will be affected if more people do not enter this vital field,” Graves said in introducing H.R.5701. “This legislation provides a viable path forward to address the skills gap and ensure the U.S. remains a world leader in the aviation industry.”
The bill will help recruit and train the next generation of mechanics, added Lipinski. “It is imperative that we ensure there is an adequate supply of trained and qualified individuals in this field,” he said.
The legislation has received nearly universal support from a cross-section of industry. Twenty associations representing business and general aviation, repair stations, commercial and regional airlines, cargo carriers, and state aviation agencies, among others, jointly wrote the lawmakers endorsing the bill.
“The U.S. aviation industry is facing a technical worker shortage that threatens to undermine the growth and competitiveness of one of the most important sectors of our economy,” the letter states. “Given the scale of the challenges facing companies around the country, the legislation could not be timelier.”
The letter points to a Boeing study estimating a need for 118,000 new maintenance technicians in North America over the next two decades, and a separate Oliver Wyman study projecting that 30 percent of the current workforce is approaching retirement age, positioning the industry for a shortage by 2022.
"The shortage of qualified maintenance workers touches all aspects of our industry, and we must all work together to find effective solutions,” said NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen.
"The Aircraft Electronics Association strongly endorses this legislation to provide a viable pathway for training our next generation of avionics technicians and aviation maintenance technicians," added AEA president Paula Derks. The bill “will instigate the creation of thousands of high-paying jobs employing skilled workers in the future,” she said.