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We Must Grow Our Aerospace Workforce

We Must Grow Our Aerospace Workforce

Authored by Felix Aviles via RealClear Wire,

The aerospace industry desperately needs young talent if we expect it to grow, innovate, and continue providing the services we need and expect in the modern era. The jobs are plentiful, but the skilled workers are not. The leaders of the industry must do a better job of communicating with the next generation of aviation pilots, machinists, and mechanics. If they don’t, the future of aerospace is in jeopardy.

A recently released industry report a detailed that “the aircraft mechanic shortage has reached a critical point” and the outlook for growth is precarious. This is detrimental not only to commercial aviation, but also national defense aviation. Without mechanics to service the U.S. aerial fleet, it’s essentially useless.

In his testimony to the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee last fall, Undersecretary for Personnel and Readiness Ashish Vazirani said that the Pentagon missed its recruiting goals by roughly 41,000 recruits. He also noted that “the all-volunteer force faces one of its greatest challenges since inception” in 1973. As our fighting forces shrink, so does the number of skilled machinists, technicians and pilots that are trained to service our defense aircraft. This is exacerbating an already critical problem.

I spent my aviation career as an F-15 technician and crew chief in the U.S. Air Force (USAF), and later I was hired by McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Company which eventually merged with Boeing. Working on this first-class fighter jet gave me opportunities I never imagined, including traveling to Saudi Arabia to support and train officers in the maintenance of the F-15s for the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) working on the F-15 C/D models. This is the most successful fighter jet in the world with an unbeaten combat record.

America’s younger generation has so much to offer. The technologies that have developed since I began my career have advanced tremendously, and today’s young people are already masters of it. The sky is the limit, literally. But they can’t seize on aerospace careers if they don’t know about them.

Now is the time for the aerospace industry to make a concerted effort to increase awareness about the fulfilling, family-supporting opportunities in aviation. For too many years, the message to our young people has been you need to go to college to succeed. While that may be the right path for some, it’s not the only path to success. Especially when you consider that the cost of a traditional college education has increased by nearly 150% since the 1960s.

Aerospace companies have been partnering with colleges and universities to create training programs that help directly fill open trades positions directly upon completion. Similarly, the U.S. service branches have been pounding the pavement, trying to reach young people and educate them on all the opportunities available through military service. However, more must be done. The skilled worker shortages get worse every day, stagnating the industry and creating a substantial national defense concern.

Industry leaders, elected officials, and those currently in the field must do what they can to meet our young people where they are. We must share our success stories, promote training programs, and offer guidance and advice to students who could become contributors and innovators in the industry. The problem won’t resolve overnight, but we can make incremental improvements if we work together.

Felix Aviles is a U.S. Air Force veteran, a single-engine pilot, and a Boeing retired F-15 technician. He currently resides in Tucson, AZ.

Sat, 03/02/2024 – 18:40

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