Washington, D.C.— Today, the House Small Business Committee Subcommittee on Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Workforce Development, led by Chairman Jason Crow (D-CO), held a hearing focused on the labor issues facing small businesses in the aviation and aerospace industry.
“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,” said Chairman Crow. “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.”
The aviation and aerospace industry employs over 2 million workers and generates hundreds of billions of dollars in industry sales annually. The sector is made up of many small firms, with small entities comprising more than 90 percent of businesses in airline transportation, air transport support, and aviation manufacturing.
Since the pandemic began, depressed demand for commercial air travel has hurt the industry. However, even with customers traveling below pre-pandemic levels, aviation companies are struggling to keep up with demand due to workforce issues. COVID exacerbated long-standing labor problems in the industry, including an aging workforce and the need to constantly upskill workers due to innovation. These problems have led to shortfalls in positions like pilots and mechanics, which have fueled record flight cancelations this year. This labor shortage also has the potential to impact national defense as studies predict that the Air Force and Navy could soon be faced with a lack of pilots.
During the hearing, members had the chance to hear directly from industry leaders about the challenges they face and the policies Congress can pursue to drive innovation and ease the workforce issues the industry is experiencing.
“Both industry and government need to put more investment into the search for competitive talent to join the A&D industry. That means looking for non-traditional sources to increase the talent pool, streamlining our processes for attracting and retaining talent, and building our future workforce at earlier stages,” said Eric Fanning, President & Chief Executive Officer at the Aerospace Industries Association. “As we develop the next generation of world-changing innovations, from autonomous flight to sending humans to Mars, our industry must build on our work to include diverse voices and perspectives at the idea phase, in the board room, and everywhere in between.”
“The challenge facing the Aviation & Aerospace Industry today is a workforce challenge. How do we increasingly grow the innovation workforce to address both current and future needs,” said ML Mackey, Chief Executive Officer of Beacon Interactive Systems in Waltham, MA. “Whether it is a focus on the scientists and engineers developing and delivering innovative technology or the maintenance technicians, the Airmen on the flight line, maintaining and sustaining aircraft, there is a workforce shortage across the board.”
“Since the beginning of the 21st century, innovation in aviation has dramatically increased bringing about drones, advanced air mobility, commercial space access and the return of supersonic travel. Advancements in technology, increasing interest from investors, and expanded government partnerships have all enabled such a positive growth trajectory,” said Blake Scholl, Founder & Chief Executive Officer of Boom Technology, Inc. in Centennial, CO. “In order to continue such growth, we have to continue to develop and attract the next generation of skilled, qualified workers. We are especially concerned with developing the right skills in future engineers and technicians who are entering the job market.”