By Kevin Haas
Rock River Current
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ROCKFORD — A jet repair hub at the Rockford airport will expand its apprenticeship program and other workforce development initiatives thanks to state funding to train future aviation mechanics.
Gov. JB Pritzker joined AAR Corp., United Airlines and local officials in Rockford today to announce $2.6 million in funding for fast-track workforce development. The funding will help AAR create 50 paid apprenticeships at its maintenance, repair and overhaul facility – commonly referred to as an MRO – at the Chicago Rockford International Airport. It currently has 15 apprentices in training.
Funding will also support the hiring of more than 15 on-the-job training instructors and capital improvements at the MRO training center.
“My administration is dedicated to rebuilding our economy by investing in people, and that’s exactly what we’re doing here,” Pritzker said in a statement. “Now, even more area residents will be able to enroll in specialized training for aviation mechanics.”
AAR plans to hire as many as 250 aviation mechanics over the next year as part of a recent multiyear agreement with United Airlines to service its aircrafts in Rockford.
“We are excited to expand our aviation mechanic training and apprenticeship program at the Rockford airport. This grant will enable us to further grow our workforce in Illinois to meet United Airline’s increasing demand for MRO services,” said John Holmes, AAR president and CEO, in a statement. “We are proud to partner with the state of Illinois and United Airlines to prepare more young people for in-demand careers in the fast-growing aviation industry.”
The state funding is also intended to allow AAR to expand its partnership with Rock Valley College and develop new educational pipelines from high school to the workforce.
“The continued growth at Rockford airport is incredible,” Mayor Tom McNamara said in a statement. “With the rapid expansion of AAR, this grant will help ensure our residents get the training and development they need to obtain livable wage jobs and pursue career opportunities with this fantastic employer right in our own community.”
The Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity awarded the $2.6 million grant to The Workforce Connection, which will work with AAR to provide curriculum enhancements to Rock Valley College’s Airframe and Powerplant Program.
“Rockford’s airport has always been a source of economic strength, creating careers in this fast-growing field and jobs for working families,” said state Rep. Maurice West, D-Rockford. “Thanks to investments by Governor Pritzker, and with AAR’s ongoing commitment to training Rockford workers, we’ll ensure the airport has the talent needed to keep pace with our modernizing infrastructure, and to compete globally for cargo as well as passenger operations.”
To learn more about jobs and career opportunities with AAR, visit its career page here.