U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi recently presented Harper College leaders with $500,000
of federal funding to help Harper launch an aviation maintenance program. Pictured
(from left) are Walt Mundt, trustee; Bill Kelley, board of trustees chair; Dr. Avis
Proctor, Harper president; Herb Johnson, trustee; Krishnamoorthi and Pat Stack, trustee.
Harper College is preparing to launch an aviation maintenance program to address a
gap in affordable training and education in the northern Illinois region.
Helping to jump start the program and position Harper as a regional leader within
this in-demand career field is $500,000 secured by U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi,
who on Friday presented college leaders with the federal funding.
“We are grateful to Congressman Krishnamoorthi for his continued commitment to expanding
opportunities for our community that connect students with high-quality, sustainable
careers,” said Dr. Avis Proctor, president of Harper College. “This support helps
meet employer and industry needs while having a lasting impact on career outcomes
for our community.”
Joining Congressman Krishnamoorthi were a group of aviation leaders who took part
in a roundtable discussion about the challenges and opportunities facing the industry
and the role Harper can play in developing the next generation of skilled workers.
The federal funding will go toward program expenses such as curriculum development
and the cost of tools and instructional equipment like brakes, sheet metal and other
The federal funding that U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi secured will help Harper begin
an aviation maintenance program to address a gap in affordable training and education
in the northern Illinois region.
“I am thrilled to be able to secure this key funding for Harper College’s Aviation
Maintenance Program,” Congressman Krishnamoorthi said. “It’s long been a priority
of mine to expand career and technical educational opportunities for students across
our state, and I can’t wait to see the new heights to which Harper soars thanks to
The aviation roundtable panel featured Michael Monreal, pilot for United Airlines
and Co-CEO of KM Property Management; Bill Sponsler, chief pilot for American Airlines; Greg Dellinger, outreach and governmental
affairs for AAR, a global aviation services company; and Sean Doyle, deputy regional
administrator for the FAA’s Great Lakes Region.
Amidst a wave of aging baby boomers and a post-COVID rebound in the aviation industry,
industry experts forecast a widening gap in aviation maintenance workers. Meanwhile,
the median regional compensation for aircraft mechanics and service technicians is
above $75,000, according to Lightcast labor market data.
“What makes people in aviation lose sleep is bringing in talent to fill needs across
the industry. Community colleges play a huge role in that,” Doyle said. “We can’t
fill these roles without the work of community colleges.”
As part of the event, Dr. Avis Proctor (center) introduced an aviation roundtable
panel including (from left) Greg Dellinger, outreach and governmental affairs for
AAR, a global aviation services company; Bill Sponsler, chief pilot for American Airlines;
Sean Doyle, deputy regional administrator for the FAA’s Great Lakes Region; and Michael
Monreal, pilot for United Airlines and Co-CEO of KM Property Management.
Also on hand were representatives of Barrington High School, which has an aviation
club and is partnering with Harper to establish dual-credit courses that would award
college credit to students while still in high school. Students from the aviation
club were also in attendance and were excited about the career pathways and opportunities
highlighted in the roundtable discussion.
While northern Illinois is a prime location for aviation, it remains underserved with
few options for accredited airline mechanic and technical schools in the region. Private
schools are often cost-prohibitive, and public-school options are not always accessible.
Other aviation maintenance programs at community colleges within Illinois are located
40 to 300 miles from Harper’s region.
Through this funding, Harper will develop a recertification course for renewing inspection
authorizations and a dual credit course that introduces high school students to the
aviation field. At the same time, the college will pursue Federal Aviation Administration
certification to offer Airframe Technician Certificate and Powerplant Certificate
programs. Airframe and Powerplant technicians perform a variety of maintenance and
service tasks on aircraft. Harper is also developing an aviation management program
and exploring an aviation pilot program.