Reporter’s notebook

Photo: Matthew Dembicki

  • Eyeing the airline workforce
  • Speaking of pipelines…
  • Va. college extends its free tuition program

Eyeing the airline workforce

The pandemic has exacerbated concerns about workforce pipelines for jobs in the aviation industry, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The industry was already facing a potential shortage of various positions, from pilots to maintenance technicians, due to retirements, education and training costs, and difficulty finding qualified workers, the report says. Airlines and aviation repair stations now worry that the pandemic will further squeeze the pipelines, which include college training programs and apprenticeships, the report says.

“Although reduced demand from the pandemic temporarily alleviated these pressures, they appear to have reemerged as firms face difficulty in replacing skilled aviation workers who were encouraged to retire, were laid off or migrated to other industries during the industry downturn in 2020,” GAO says.

The American Rescue Plan Act, which was enacted in March, provides an option to help alleviate some of those potential problems by establishing the Aviation Manufacturing Jobs Protection Program. Through it, the U.S. Transportation Department will provide up to $3 billion to eligible aviation manufacturing companies to pay up to half of their compensation costs for certain categories of employees for up to six months.

“Aviation workforce retraining and efforts to strengthen the pipeline of new applicants for aviation careers, such as through apprenticeships and pathway programs, could help ensure the workforce is ready to respond to future air travel demand,” GAO says.

Speaking of pipelines…

In Michigan, Grand Rapids Community College is partnering with the city of Grand Rapids and Bay College for a project to build a pipeline to careers in the water and wastewater industry.

Hillary Caron, a chemist for the Grand Rapids Water Department, checks water samples at the Lake Michigan Water Filtration Plant. (Photo: City of Grand Rapids)

The project is supported by a $3.8 million U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant. GRCC, Grand Rapids and Bay College will use a $500,000 award to introduce middle and high school students and neighborhoods with high unemployment to opportunities in fresh water and wastewater utilities. In announcing the grants, EPA noted that the water industry faces shortages of qualified workers because of retirements and new investments in infrastructure.

GRCC will work with its partners to create hands-on opportunities for learning about the industry, said Julie Parks, GRCC’s interim dean of workforce development. That includes “Water Weekend” events for families and working with schools and organizations to share career information with students. Those interested in water and wastewater careers will be able to learn more about them through boot camp-style workshops, internships and job-shadowing opportunities with the city of Grand Rapids.

Va. college extends its free tuition program

Piedmont Virginia Community College (PVCC) is extending its PVCC4U. 100%! tuition assistance program to all eligible, new and returning students who enroll for the spring semester.

Launched in May, the program fully covers tuition and fees for those who qualify, aiming to help students for whom cost is a barrier. It was designed to help the community rebound from the pandemic, according to the college.

This fall, the program has provided 431 students with $508,842 in additional funding to cover the full cost of their tuition and fees. For the full academic year, PVCC estimates $1.4 million in funding for more than 700 students.

Among the list of eligibility requirements, students must have a family income of $100,000 or less or have been laid off or furloughed due to the pandemic. Students also must complete the federal student aid application, which is to encourage more students to apply for federal assistance.

It seems to be working. The number of current and prospective students completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the current academic year has already exceeded the total received for the entire previous academic year, according to the college. From October 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021 there were 4,064 submitted applications; 4,200 FAFSAs have been submitted thus far in the current academic year.

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
is editor of Community College Daily and serves as publications director for the American Association of Community Colleges.