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ROCKFORD State Senator Steve Stadelman joined Governor Pritzker, AAR CORP and local officials to announce a $2.6 million investment into workforce training at the Rockford International Airport today.

"The Chicago-Rockford International Airport is a strong economic driver in the region, creating thousands of jobs," said Stadelman (D-Rockford). "This investment in AAR supports the continued economic impact and job creation of the airport by creating a strong pipeline of aviation mechanics and expanding opportunities for Illinoisans."

Thursday’s announcement builds off the investment made last year to help bolster the AAR CORP’s workforce strategy and has allowed them to increase the number of aviation mechanics hired from 85 in 2019 to more than 350 today.

The total investment of $5.2 million from this year and last strengthens the aviation mechanic pipeline to meet the growing demand. Along with AAR’s workforce strategy, the state’s funding supports apprenticeship opportunities, training, hiring training personnel and bolstering partnerships with local colleges and high schools throughout Northern Illinois to bring in qualified aviation mechanics.

The state funds will also continue to support 80 apprenticeship opportunities and short-term credentialing programs and incentives for experienced technicians to relocate to the Rockford area.

Rockford International Airport serves as a critical economic driver in the region, supporting more than 21,476 jobs and accounting for approximately $4.7 billion in economic impact. With global companies like United Airlines and AAR headquartered in Illinois, building the aviation mechanic pipeline bolsters Illinois’ reputation a global aviation leader. The state is expected to see continued growth in the years ahead, with an industry report estimating that over 600,000 maintenance technicians will be needed globally in the years ahead.

“The Rockford International Airport is a continual provider of valued and skilled employment – it’s important we support programs in the mechanical field and give people the opportunity for better jobs through learning valuable skills,” Stadelman said. “I am excited for how this investment will give people an opportunity to learn aviation mechanics and give residents a new option for their future.”

DCEO has awarded $2.6 million in grants to Workforce Connection, a DCEO Apprenticeship Navigator as they work with AAR to provide curriculum enhancements to Rock Valley Community College’s Airframe and Powerplant Program. Introducing plans to prepare mechanics for today’s demands and increasing focus on transport category aircraft and systems.

Investments into aviation workforce continues the efforts of increasing career training opportunities for all residents across the state and will help Illinois secure good-paying jobs with accessible opportunities.