Rockford area aviation programs impacted by shortage

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ROCKFORD (WREX) — The aviation industry is facing a shortage of pilots and mechanics and it’s affecting enrollment at some local aviation programs, but maybe not in the way you would think.

“The shortage exists because the airline industry is growing,” Dr. Ken Witcher, Dean of the College of Aeronautics at Embry-Riddle – Worldwide, said.

Embry-Riddle is one of the top aviation training programs in the country.

“We had a billion passengers carried annually in 1987,” Dr. Witcher explained. “It took us 18 years to go to two billion and it took another seven years to go to three billion – that’s people carried per year.”

To meet that need, that means more planes, more pilots and more mechanics.

“With the shortage of technicians that’s occurring today, that’s only going to drive wages up,” Mark Adolphson, an AMT instructor at RVC, said. “So, I think in the future we’re going to see a really good outcome as far as wages and employment opportunities.”

Rock Valley College’s AMT program lasts two years and is already full for the fall and it’s filling up for the spring.

“We’ve just had a job fair recently and we had over 25 employers there,” Adolphson said.

But some people are concerned that because of the need for more pilots and AMT’s, safety is being put jeopardy. AMT student Andrew Perez says that’s simply not the case.

“I wouldn’t be scared because a lot of people have been studying and putting in the work and hours, so I wouldn’t be scared at all,” Perez said.

As the aviation industry continues to soar, experts are still looking to fill an 800,000 worker shortage worldwide.

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