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We recently had the opportunity to speak with Keith Mueller, the Aviation Coordinator at Southwestern IL College. We were interested in the status of Aviation and Aviation Education in our region.

Keith – “I’m a strong supporter of aviation education and skill sets that lead to industry and aviation expansion. This area has serious industry needs that are not being adequately addressed for the Aero Space Industry.  We have almost 60 different aviation organizations within the Metro area.  Large facilities such as Boeing, Gulf Stream (General Dynamics) West Start Aviation, Flight Star Aviation, Flying Coulors are continuing to see a serious need for qualified employees. Boeing just received the Navy MQ 25 contract and new Air Force T 7 Jet Trainer contract for their St. Louis Facility. Overall, both contracts will generate almost 14,000 quality jobs through the local facility and Boeing subcontractors. The impact on the economy is approximately $20 Billion Dollars.

The SWIC aviation programs produce quality employment candidates but needs a significant expansion. Their Aircraft Maintenance Program expansion and the development of an Avionics (Aviation Electronics) program is well overdue.  Aviation Flight that will eventually include Unmanned Aerial Systems (drones) has much more potential than the present program. Boeing forecasts now show the need for more than 750,000 pilots and 739,000 technicians worldwide by 2040 for airlines and corporate operators. The military also has a significant pilot shortage that will further expand as the commercial airlines restructure back to normal capacity.

Many area youth group organizations that promote aviation education are seeing this and ahead of the educational organizations trying to develop programs to bring young people into aviation careers.  The State of Illinois Aviation Deputy Director Clayton Stambaugh is guiding a new program identified as the Illinois Aviation Education Task Force that will establish dual credit programs in high schools. Our area has a significant focus having many employers and organizations that are expanding.  The proposed Boeing Facility 35-acre development at the Mid America Airport is a prime example of where we need to react.  We are significantly behind in aviation skill sets development in the area. “