By Jim Tise, FAA Office of Communications
Pat Watts, the FAA’s senior grants officer, knew the FAA’s workforce grants solicitation was going to be successful just an hour or so after the grant announcement was posted online. “My phone started ringing off the hook,” she recalled.
Those phone calls and inquiries rarely slowed during the two months it took to reach the closing date of March 29. Watts reports that several hundred applications have been filed for the two grant programs.
Totaling $5 million each, the two grant programs were authorized by Congress in the FAA’s 2018 reauthorization legislation to stimulate interest among students and encourage them to enter the aerospace career field. The funding is intended to support the education of future aircraft pilots; operators of unmanned aircraft systems; aerospace engineers in rural, urban, and suburban areas; and aviation maintenance technicians, including those underrepresented in the field and in economically disadvantaged areas, as well as veterans transitioning from military service.
The Aircraft Pilots Workforce Development Grants target opportunities to teach high school students who might be interested in or have an aptitude to become pilots, aerospace engineers, or unmanned aircraft systems operators. Eligible applicants include colleges and universities, secondary and high schools, state and local governments, air carriers, labor unions representing aircrafts pilots, flight schools, and aviation-related associations.
The Aviation Maintenance Technical Workers Workforce Development Grants are aimed at students of all ages who are interested in aviation maintenance careers. Applicants may include colleges and universities, secondary and high schools, state and local governments, holders of aviation maintenance certificates, and labor organizations representing aviation maintenance workers.
A complementary goal of the grants program is to reach underrepresented communities, said Marie Sharpe, grants branch manager in the FAA’s NextGen office.
The strong public response to the grant solicitations “says a lot about how much the public is interested in developing the training programs for both areas that will give a person an opportunity for a potential career in aviation,” Sharpe said.
Now the hard work of assessing each solicitation begins.
Each applicant will be rated by subject matter experts and assembled into two review panels: a technical evaluation panel that rates the applicant’s skill sets and ability to deliver its proposed training curriculum and related activities; and a management and fiscal review panel to ensure that the applicant is financially sound, has proposed reasonable costs to support the proposed project, and has provided all required documents needed for both review panels.
“I am just really ecstatic that Congress did this,” said Sharpe, who noted that these grants will also benefit the FAA by helping to recruit individuals gaining essential aviation knowledge from this programs. She said she will enjoy seeing “how we are going to go about changing people’s lives and offering them a career, and seeing how the FAA will be able to benefit … by being able to recruit some of the individuals going through these different programs.”
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