Council Urges Expansion of FAA Workforce Grant Program

As Congress prepares to craft and debate the next FAA reauthorization bill, perhaps no topic will be more closely watched than workforce development.

It's no secret that a shortage of key frontline workers such as pilots, mechanics, and air traffic controllers is a threat to near-term industry stability and growth. This is why the council and several other industry organizations are calling on Congress to extend and expand the FAA's successful Aviation Workforce Development Programs.

Authorized by language in the 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act, the law empowered the FAA to launch two programs--one for mechanics and one for pilots. They have been wildly successful, attracting nearly $200 million in requests for $20 million in funding distributed so far, including $10 million earlier this year.

Given the documented need to develop more certified mechanics, the council is urging Congress to allocate $50 million for the program in the upcoming FAA reauthorization bill, as recommended in the Youth Access to American Jobs in Aviation Report. ATEC also recommends expanding grant eligibility to include non-profit organizations, clarifying that part 147 schools are eligible for grants and that a past award grant doesn’t bar you from a future grant, and allocating funding to FAA personnel to run the program. A program to share case studies of successful grant awards is also recommended.

The council has sent information and proposed bill language to key lawmakers outlining its plan. Others joining the effort include the Aeronautical Repair Station Association and Aerospace Industries Association, which is calling for grants applicable to manufacturing jobs. A group of key senators is also onboard and has called for the program's expansion in a letter to leaders on the influential senate appropriations committee.

In the most recent round of awards, eleven organizations were given $5 million in Aviation Workforce Development Maintenance Technical Workers grants. The full list of grant awards for both the maintenance-worker and pilot-development grants and related projects is available on the FAA's website.

A subsequent round is expected to open for applications in the coming weeks; ATEC will keep its members informed on any new developments.