A Year in Review: Workforce Issues Take Center Stage
While workforce issues have long been with us, the ever-increasing shortage of technical personnel took center stage this year starting with an FAA Workforce Summit which crystalized the challenges ahead for the industry. The year culminated with full congressional funding for the workforce grant program mandated by the FAA Reauthorization Act.
“This has been a year of significant action for aviation education,” said ATEC Executive Director Crystal Maguire. “We made wide-spread legislative and regulatory progress because of the aviation community’s decision to join together, and the direct engagement of our members.”
Earlier this week, House and Senate unveiled the FY 2020 appropriations calling for $5 million per year for each of the aviation maintenance and pilot training grant programs. ATEC members engaged with elected leaders to get the legislation passed. Once implemented, schools and industry will have more workforce development funding opportunities.
The victory comes on the heels of significant progress on other issues, such as the continued push to reform part 147 training regulations, which are slowly making their way through the FAA. This summer, ATEC was joined by 13 other aviation trade associations in submitting joint comments to the part 147 supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking, delivering a powerful message of unity and support for technician education.
In a major advance on this issue we capped the year gaining bi-partisan congressional support for legislation requiring the FAA to speed up reform. The Promoting Aviation Regulations for Technical Training (PARTT) 147 Act (S.3043/H.R.5427) would direct the agency to replace current training requirements with a new, community-drafted regulation that would establish a performance-based oversight system. Under the new law, part 147 schools would have the flexibility to teach content that is reflective of today’s high-tech environment.
In an effort to address workforce shortages and increase diversity, ATEC supported introduction of a House-backed bill – Promoting Service in Transportation Act (HR 5118) – that would create public service campaigns to raise awareness of aviation and other transportation careers.
This progress came on the heels of the administration’s formal recognization of AMT Day, and “the men and women who carry on our nation’s legacy of aviation and work diligently to ensure our aircraft continue operating at the standard of excellence synonymous with American industry.”
At the same time, ATEC strenuously objected to the Protect Students Act of 2019, introduced in the Senate, which would severely limit proprietary aviation maintenance technician schools from serving students and veterans, saying the legislation would negatively impact aerospace companies seeking FAA-certified mechanics and other aviation technical personnel.
On the regulatory front, ATEC took advantage of growing member interest in dual enrollment programs, and asked the FAA to provide a better framework for aviation maintenance schools looking to expand their reach into high schools.
ATEC as an organization continues to grow; in 2019 the trade association again exceeded the previous year’s record membership. In October, it announced its intention to create a new 501(c)(3) organization that will implement initiatives to increase career awareness in aviation maintenance. Choose Aerospace will also facilitate a new scholarship program.
The revised Flightplan renews the council’s focus on enhanced member outreach and community opportunities through support staff expansion. A new website and member portal will publish in the summer.
To our members, thank you for your support and engagement. It has been a memorable year to be sure. We look forward to even greater accomplishments in 2020!