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$2.6 million coming to expand aviation mechanic training in Rockford

Published: Nov. 16, 2021 at 6:50 PM CST
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - The state of Illinois gives funding to the Chicago Rockford International Airport to lure more people to a career in aviation.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker joined the AAR Corporation, United Airlines, local officials and workforce partners to announce a $2.6 million investment towards workforce development training for in-demand aviation mechanics. Officials say shortages are hitting that industry now more than ever.

A recent Boeing report estimates that more than 600,000 maintenance technicians will be needed to globally meet aviation repair and operations needs by airlines and aviation-related companies in the years ahead.

John Holmes, President and CEO of AAR says, “The shortage for skilled labor still exists and it’s actually even more acute than it was before the pandemic.” This was able to be put to fruition thanks in part to a newly inked agreement between AAR and United Airlines. It’s a win-win for both, especially when up to 250 new aviation mechanics jobs will be created from this funding.

Steven Porterfield is a Maintenance Supervisor for AAR and says this money will be great for expanding its already steady partnership with Rock Valley College and it’s Aviation Career Education Center. Porterfield says, “I think it’s a really good opportunity. I’m especially excited for Rock Valley College and the students that will be coming in. I think it’s a good opportunity for Rockford and the general area.”

AAR currently has 15 apprentices in training and will be expanding this to 75 thanks to the funding. Tom Doxey of United Airlines says this comes at a perfect time, especially because the airline has been storing aircraft at RFD throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Doxey says, “We have an incredible number of aircraft that are coming through this type of maintenance work and it’s a hard thing to go from zero to where we are today, which is as many of our airplanes back as we possibly can.”

The funding will also be used to support AAR in hiring upwards of 15 new on-the-job training instructors and to invest in training and capital improvements at the Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility at the Rockford Airport.

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