PACES helps overcome hurdles

For those who want an aircraft job but don't have what it takes: Take heart.

A new program has been created to help people overcome the hurdles blocking them from those jobs.

The program, called the Preparation for Aviation Career Employment System, PACES for short, was announced Wednesday at Wichita Area Technical College.

Some hurdles include: not enough money to pay for classes, need for baby-sitting, lack of math skills or nonfluency in English.

The program will start taking applications in January. Details are still being worked out.

The mood was festive among officials from the aircraft industry, local government, education and nonprofit groups gathered for the announcement.

"If it were not so formal in here, I'd say we'd be high-fiving each other," said Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer.

The goal of PACES is to raise $2.25 million that will be used to help people find the day care or math tutoring they need, said Keith Lawing, executive director of the Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas.

The effort, backed by the local aircraft industry, government and social service agencies, was kicked off with a $450,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

PACES is a double positive for the area, said Pat Hanrahan, president of the United Way of the Plains.

"We see this as not just economic development, but as a major social program," said Hanrahan.

"It's making people happier, more productive, taxpayers, not tax receivers."

But Lawing also stressed that applicants must demonstrate a willingness to work hard and do what it takes.