As Oklahoma’s second-largest industry, aerospace offers an abundance of lucrative careers for people who have “a burning desire to fly or repair airplanes” and even for those who don’t, said Geoff Camp, State Director of Aerospace and Defense. a recent JR/Now webinar.
Log record Editor Joe Dowd led the discussion with industry experts.
Oklahoma ACES, led by the Camp team, is a resourced program dedicated to growing the state’s aerospace industry. The industry’s economic impact in 2017 was about $44 billion, second only to energy at $62 billion, Camp said. The gap is expected to be in the single digits when the impacts are measured again next year.
“Industry is so vast in the state, it’s not just about mechanics and engineers,” Camp said. Or even the massive pilot shortage that has just one airline trying to hire 24,500 more pilots.
Aerospace and military companies also need majors, logisticians, software engineers, cybersecurity engineers and more.
“This industry was built on the back of our unwavering strength, which is maintenance, repair and overhaul,” Camp said. “We are truly a global powerhouse for maintenance, repair and overhaul.”
At the same time, the face of aerospace and defense is changing with Advanced Air Mobility, unmanned systems, additive technologies, autonomous technologies and high propulsion technologies.
“We need to prepare for the next wave of aerospace. There’s actually a revolution going on in aerospace,” Camp said.
Preparing a workforce is the job of Oklahoma CareerTech, which offers airframe and powerplant courses leading to Federal Aviation Administration aircraft technician certification, said Eddie Compton, liaison with Aerospace/Defense Industry at Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education.
In addition to aircraft maintenance and technician training, CareerTech offers many STEM, pre-engineering and computer science programs that feed into higher education in these career fields, Compton said. And it offers up to 200 customized courses — ranging from eight hours to eight weeks — that can provide the specific workforce training businesses need.
Workforce training has been hit hard during COVID, so CareerTech and industry leaders have spent time preparing for the return. “We knew we were going to grow and we had to be ready,” Compton said.
CareerTech has developed a series of three-minute videos highlighting industry in government, private sector, education and state organizations to interest students from elementary school age on the many career opportunities in the industry. aerospace.
Camp said all sectors are working together to ensure the next generation workforce is aware, prepared and excited about these jobs.
“Things are getting back to normal for us. Our hangars are full in all our locations. We want to grow,” said Ryan Goertzen, vice president of workforce development at AAR Corp.
The Chicago-headquartered global aerospace company is the largest maintenance, repair and overhaul provider in the United States and has its oldest MRO organization at Will Rogers World Airport.
“The need for qualified technicians for us is huge,” Goertzen said. During the pandemic, the aviation industry saw a nearly 98% reduction in commercial air travel, but knew it would come back, he said. “Unfortunately the industry has retired a lot of people.”
AAR is seeing a lot of business growth in Oklahoma “because you have to go where the workforce is and wants to be,” Goertzen said. Taxes are low and the state’s CareerTech system is “unparalleled.”
The company has developed the Eagle Career Pathway program – a tool that educational institutions can use to help students, parents, teachers and advisors understand the many lucrative careers in aerospace.
Goertzen pointed out, “It’s a six-figure career path, you can stay in Oklahoma and you can do just about anything in the aerospace industry.”
The camp accepted. “We don’t necessarily have a labor problem. What we have is a marketing problem,” he said.
“There are a million different branches on this tree,” Camp said. The aerospace industry offers “the opportunity to drive your own story, your own destiny as you wish…because there are so many avenues in this career path”.