MELBOURNE, Fla. – With a persisting need for more workers in the aviation industry, a local aircraft manufacturer is hoping to inspire teenagers to pursue those jobs.

Brazil-headquartered Embraer brought 100 middle school-age students to its manufacturing and engineering campus in Melbourne.

What You Need To Know

  • 100 students participated in the first Aviation Day with Embraer

  • The event was also supported by the Flying Classroom, created by the first and youngest Black man to fly around the world solo

  • The Embraer Foundation hopes that this Aviation Day program can help bolster the workforce for an industry that will need hundreds of thousands of new workers in the next 20 years

The students from three middle schools got the opportunity to tour the factory floor to see the production process up close, something new for the manufacturer.

Monica Newman McCluney, the head of U.S. corporate responsibility for Embraer and the Embraer Foundation, said the foundation relocated to Melbourne about a year and a half ago and wanted to establish a connection to the local community.

“It’s so important to have our kids on the campus here with us because you can’t be what you can’t see,” McCluney said. “I can take a group of people out to the middle school and talk at a high level about the opportunities that exist within our industry, but it’s a totally different picture when they’re able to see it and touch it. First-hand experience makes all the difference.”

According to Boeing’s 2022 Pilot and Technician Outlook, the market will need 610,000 new maintenance technicians and 602,000 pilots over the next 20 years.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the mean pay for aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians is $65,550 per year or $31.52 per hour.

In addition to the floor tour, students were also able to participate in more than a dozen, hands-on STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) experiments hosted by the non-profit group, Flying Classroom.

The organization is the brainchild of Capt. Barrington Irving, a Guinness World Record Holder for being the youngest and first Black man to fly around the world solo.

After achieving that milestone, the Jamaican-born, Miami-raised pilot conducted a number of expeditions around the world in pursuit of ways to inspire and educate young people. He describes aviation as a pre-internet of sorts.

“It connected the world in such a different way and I wanted to take aviation and use it in a manner that allows kids to explore the world,” Barrington said. “Aviation opens things up to the world and that’s what we want them to experience: the world.”

Being able to show kids different routes and possibilities within the field of aviation is something that Barrington, the Embraer Foundation and others hoped the kids would take away from the first Aviation Day.

Several juniors from Eau Gallie High School, who will intern with Embraer soon, were also on hand to talk with students. It’s one of only two high schools in the country with a direct partnership with the Embraer Foundation.

“Because we have people who are retiring and retiring early or aging out of the business, it’s important that we reach back at an even younger age,” McCluney said. “High school is great because it’s an immediate workforce pipeline, but middle school, we’re excited about inspiring them early enough that they have the interest to go into the appropriate CTE programs at the high school level that then makes them an ideal candidate to come and work here.”

McCluney said they look forward to more Aviation Day experiences in the future.