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FAA gives $500,000 grant to SUSLA aimed at filling more aviation jobs

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Southern University at Shreveport is getting a $500,000 infusion aimed at helping generate interest and preparing students to pursue careers in aviation maintenance as part of a federal push to shore up a shortage of workers in the field.

Rep. Mike Johnson announced the grant from the Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday.

“It’s imperative that we have a dynamic workforce available to meet the demands of our rapidly evolving economy,” Johnson said. “Southern University will be a great steward of this award—the largest grant offered by the FAA—and I’m grateful that the agency is investing in the young people of north Louisiana.”

The announcement comes at a crucial time in the aerospace technology industry.

“We’re in a situation where we have baby boomers that are retiring and we don’t have enough new blood to replace them,” said Timothy Banks, director of the university’s aerospace program. “So, this funding by the FAA is going to help us increase our enrollment.”

“We need to build a next generation, establishing a new pipeline of aviation technicians to take over these very critical duties and responsibilities,” said Vladimir Alexander Appeaning, interim chancellor of SUSLA.

The university’s aerospace technology program is called a hidden gem — now coming to light.

“Oftentimes we talk about this program being one of the best well-kept secrets,” Appeaning said. “We’re well known for our ability to really produce outstanding aircraft technicians. And it was a very natural project for us, and opportunity for us to advance — knowing that we are established in this area, and advance in this field for workforce developing opportunities.”

The grant is expected to give students the upper hand to achieve career success.

“Our students don’t have the same opportunity as other students because of their backgrounds, but this program will allow them to do so,” said Dr. Barry Hester, SUSLA’s interim Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs and Workforce Development. “And they can prove that by getting the proper education they can do anything they set their minds to.”