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Paris Air Show panel to spotlight Alabama workforce development

Leading Alabama educators will discuss the state’s extensive aerospace workforce development resources during a panel discussion at next week’s 2023 Paris Air Show, the industry’s premier trade event this year.

The panel discussion, titled “Made in Alabama: Tapping into the Aerospace Workforce Pipeline” will be held at The Forum space within the U.S. Pavilion at 3 P.M. local time Monday, June 19, at Le Bourget Airport, the site of the air show.

The moderator for the event is Dr. Kimberly Robinson, director of Huntsville’s U.S. Space & Rocket Center, which operates Space Camp, a global leader in STEM education for students that has graduated more than 1 million participants since opening in 1982.

Participating on the panel are:

  • Chuck Karr, president of the University of Alabama in Huntsville, a Carnegie R1 comprehensive university conducting $170 million per year in external research. Dr. Karr previously held the position of the Dean of the College of Engineering at The University of Alabama.
  • Todd Shackett, president of Southern Union State Community College, where works to advance partnerships and program offerings with a focus on careers. Shackett has more than 35 years of engineering, leadership and management experience, having worked for General Motors, Becton Dickinson and Baxter International.
  • Steven Taylor, senior vice president for research and economic development at Auburn University. Dr. Taylor is responsible for all aspects of research, scholarship and economic development across the Carnegie R1 class university, which has annual research expenditures of $304 million.

Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, said the panel discussion provides an opportunity to showcase Alabama’s comprehensive network of educational resources and training programs for growing aerospace companies.

“We have a constellation of high-value assets within our workforce development delivery system, and the state’s universities and community colleges represent an important pillar in our efforts to prepare an aerospace workforce,” Secretary Canfield said.

“We have the resources, strategies and experience to equip aerospace companies with the talented workforces they need to succeed.”


Commerce is home to a Workforce Development Division whose centerpiece is AIDT, the state’s premier job-training agency. AIDT opens the one-of-a-kind Robotics Technology Park in North Alabama and the Alabama Aviation Center in Mobile, along with other training centers.

“AIDT works directly with aerospace and aviation companies to assist with new start-ups and expansions,” said Ed Castile, Deputy Commerce Secretary and AIDT Director. “Services are at no cost to the companies or trainees and include recruiting, assessing, and training new and existing employees.

“AIDT has numerous training sites, but most notably works at the company site as a full partner with the company on job specific and customized training for the company to meet their individual needs,” he added.

Auburn University’s Dr. Taylor said Alabama universities provide programs in several engineering disciplines that are indispensable to aerospace companies, and they work collaboratively with industry partners on projects and specialized job-training programs.

In addition, the state’s two-year colleges offer hands-on instruction and certification in aviation technology and electro-mechanical technology.

“The State of Alabama has a comprehensive educational network to support the workforce needs of the aerospace/aviation industry,” he said.

Southeast Gas, an Andalusia-based utility that’s involved in aerospace-related economic development in 18 Southeastern Alabama counties, is sponsoring the panel discussion in coordination with the Alabama Department of Commerce.

The region is home to Fort Novosel (formerly Rucker), the site of the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence, as well as industry leaders including Sikorsky, Bell Helicopter and Lockheed Martin.

“The group of panelists we’ve assembled for this discussion are among the most esteemed aerospace and advance manufacturing educators in the world,” Southeast Gas President and CEO Greg Henderson said.

“And, while their roles and the institutions they represent are impressive, their willingness to share their expertise and enthusiastically partner with and support the growth of the industry is why the State of Alabama continues to lead in this field,” he added.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

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