Statement of the Hon. Jason Crow on Moving Upwards and Onwards: The Innovation and Workforce Needs of the Aviation and Aerospace Industry
Washington, May 12, 2022
The U.S. aviation and aerospace industry is crucial to our national economy and national defense capabilities. From commercial airliners to telecommunications satellites, the aerospace industry touches the lives of countless Americans every day.
The industry also provides meaningful employment to over 2 million workers. These are good-paying jobs that allow workers to further their careers and support their families. In 2020, aerospace workers averaged roughly $104,577 in wages and benefits.
The impact of this industry extends beyond U.S. borders. Domestic aerospace companies are global leaders that export civil and military products to countries worldwide. In 2020 alone, the industry generated $874 billion in total industry sales revenue.
The impact of this industry is big, but small businesses make up a substantial portion of the sector. For example, small entities comprise more than 90 percent of businesses in airline transportation, air transport support, and aviation manufacturing. Despite the successes of the Aerospace industry, COVID has presented unprecedented challenges. Travel restrictions ground global air traffic to a near halt in the early days of the pandemic.
Since then, new variants and intermittent rising case counts have continued to depress commercial aviation’s recovery. In January of this year, flights operated stood at 85.3 percent of pre-pandemic levels.
But even with this decreased demand, companies are struggling to hire the right workers to keep up with supply. This problem is not confined to the aerospace industry. Small businesses across the country are feeling the effect of an overall labor shortage. This worker shortfall is complex and connected to pandemic-related issues like decreased legal immigration, early retirements, and a lack of childcare options for working parents.
But even before the pandemic, the aerospace industry faced labor issues, including an aging workforce and the need to constantly upskill workers due to innovation. These problems have led to shortfalls in vital positions, including pilots and mechanics. And staffing shortages have led to record flight cancellations throughout early 2022, creating significant disruptions for travelers.
The implications of this labor shortage also extend to our military. Studies predict significant shortfalls for Air Force and Navy pilots soon. This is simply unacceptable. If the aerospace industry can’t find an adequate number of trained workers, our economy and national security will suffer.
That’s why we must use the tools at our disposal to ensure that workers have the necessary skills to fill these positions. The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 and the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 added training grants for the pilot workforce alongside aviation maintenance technical workers. The Aerospace industry has also embraced apprenticeships as a model for attracting young workers and equipping them with the necessary skills to succeed.
So today, we will deepen our understanding of this industry - examining these workforce initiatives and other policy solutions that can support workers and the aerospace sector as we work toward recovery.