The Mission of Reach Back & Lift 1 (RB&L1) is to assist youth and young adults with professional, personal, and leadership skills by providing training, programs, and partnerships with local business leaders. RB&L 1 is committed to connecting underemployed individuals with the resources necessary to become self-sufficient and earn a living wage. Our programs will be targeting underserved communities in St Mary’s County, Maryland.
Although the unemployment rate is relatively low in St. Mary’s County, a large concentration of residents, seeking employment (including underemployed residents) live within 5 miles of Patuxent River Naval Air Base. The local aviation industry offers several career opportunities that do not require the same level of academic requirements and/or work experience as the typical engineering positions that pay similar salaries in the area. The Youth In Aviation Program exposes local youth to the aviation industry and provides an opportunity to earn a certification required for entry-level jobs in the industry. By recruiting local workers, this program will help local businesses grow their workforce with personnel that desires to remain here in the County, ultimately reducing attrition rates in our transient community.
The cost of training for one student seeking to earn a private pilot license can be well over $10,000. This cost represents a large barrier to entry for residents without significant available resources as they consider beginning careers in the aviation industry. Removing this barrier will make this training a more realistic option for additional employment seekers in St. Mary’s County. Course completion and employment will serve as marketing material for the Youth In Aviation Program, and facilitate growth to meet the needs of expanding local aviation industry.
New employment, or the increase of residents earning a living wage, does a lot more than just help the household of the newly employed workers. This employment leads to higher rates of consumer spending, which benefits other businesses in the area. The impacts extend well beyond simple economic development. As we move beyond the pandemic of the last few years, we must consider the impacts on public health. The positive economic benefit caused by increased employment is positively correlated with good health outcomes.
The Southern Maryland Youth in Aviation Program is operated by a team of organizations: Reach Back & Lift 1, The East Coast Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen, and S. Hunt Aero. The team recruited a flight instructor, James Alexander, Flight Instructor, and Program Manager at the University of Maryland UAS Test Site. The Planning Team is William Hall (United States Military Academy/Reach Back & Lift 1), Tommy Herndon (United States Air Force Academy/East Coast Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen), Ken Reed (Owner S. Hunt Aero), and James Alexander (Flight Instructor).
The SOMD Youth In Aviation Program is in its 2nd Year. Year 2 program participation was more than double the participation of the first year. Our year 3 target is 30 candidates, with all of our students completing the program and flight hours necessary to earn a private pilot license.