United Way Miami’s Transformative Workforce Fund Takes Flight into Aviation

UpSkill Miami Partners with Barrington Irving Technical Training School
to Train and Employ Participants in Aviation

United Way Miami, one of the leading and longest standing non-profits in South Florida, announces the expansion of its workforce fund, UpSkill Miami, into the leading industry of aviation in partnership with the Barrington Irving Technical Training School (BITTS). The official announcement will take place at a scheduled press conference on Tuesday, May 28 at 10:30am at the Opa-Locka Executive Airport located at 14600 NW 42 Avenue, Hangar 42, Opa-Locka, FL 33054.

The Barrington Irving Technical Training School (BITTS) was established in 2023 by Captain Barrington Irving, the youngest person and first Black pilot to fly solo around the world.  BITTS is a partnership with the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), Miami-Dade County, Miami-Dade Aviation Department, Atlantic Aviation, Bombardier, Signature Aviation and Snap-On, which offers programs, training, specialized technical and professional certification to students pursuing careers in aviation.

“Aviation stands as one of Florida’s major industries and is an invaluable economic engine in Miami-Dade County, contributing more than 275,000 jobs to the local economy,” said Symeria Hudson, President and CEO of United Way Miami.  “The industry is experiencing record growth, but women represent less than 20% of the combined aviation workforce. Expanding our workforce fund into aviation provides tremendous opportunities for our residents and for women. I want to credit Jayne Abess, Emeritus Board member, for being the driving force behind this partnership and for having the foresight to recognize the collective impact this collaboration will have on enriching the lives of countless individuals.”

UpSkill Miami’s partnership with BITTS represents a commitment to assist individuals with accessible, high-quality job training in the aviation industry, spanning roles such as aircraft technician and line service technician. The initiative offers participants a comprehensive 12–16-week training program, totaling 160 total training hours, and a blend of on-the-job training, direct instructional time, independent learning, virtual and in-person training sessions. The program ensures participants undergo skill and knowledge assessments, paving a path for residents to secure career placements in the areas of Fixed Based Operations and Maintenance and Repair Overhaul.

“Our collaboration with United Way Miami’s UpSkill initiative speaks directly to our passion of transforming lives and strengthening our community,” said Captain Barrington. “A significant number of those we assist enter our program without employment, yet within 16 weeks, they are earning over $20 an hour with opportunities for overtime and professional advancement within the aviation sector. The training is life changing and aligns with the growing demands of the aviation industry. Most importantly, it gives us the opportunity to train, equip, and employ members of our local community.”

According to the 2023 ALICE Report, nearly half of a million Miami-Dade households are either in or one paycheck away from falling into poverty. United Way Miami launched UpSkill Miami in July 2023 to enable residents to expand their skills and secure employment in high-demand industries, bridging the gap between a lack of skilled workers and hundreds of unfilled jobs. Notably, the partnership with BITTS represents UpSkill Miami’s third phase following successful training programs in healthcare, transportation, construction and energy, showcasing its effectiveness as a bridge between education and workforce development, in turn benefiting more than 750 Miami-Dade County residents.  As United Way Miami celebrates its centennial year, the organization will continually seek out partnerships – like the one with BITTS- that present tangible outcomes and foster lasting change, signifying its path to the future.

“United Way Miami’s workforce training fund provides a pathway for residents to access high-demand jobs,” said Abess. “With more and more women carrying the heavy load of supporting their families, it is crucial that we send a clear message that the aviation industry is open and welcoming to individuals from all backgrounds, including women. By supporting programs like UpSkill Miami’s expansion into aviation, we are ensuring that women have equal opportunities to thrive and succeed in this dynamic field.”

Seed funding for UpSkill Miami comes from a historic investment from MacKenzie Scott’s foundation. Those eligible for the program must live or work in Miami-Dade County, earn below $35,000, or are currently unemployed. UpSkill Miami’s target population is people of color, female heads of household, veterans and youth ages 18-24 or those aging out of foster care.

United Way Miami is committed to conducting thorough research and devising strategic plans to meet the evolving needs of the Miami-Dade community and shaping the future of this innovative workforce fund.

To learn more about UpSkill Miami, visit unitedwaymiami.org/UpSkillMiami.

United Way Miami has been a leader in Miami-Dade’s nonprofit community for 100 years. Founded in 1924 – less than 30 years after the city of Miami’s official incorporation – we work with our network of donors, volunteers and partners to transform the lives of our most vulnerable residents. We leverage our unique position to convene the community, build awareness of Miami-Dade’s needs and potential, fund nearly 100 impactful local programs and more than 60 local agencies and provide direct services that uplift families in underserved communities. We directly lead and run the United Way Center for Excellence in Early Education, the United Way Center for Financial Stability, UpSkill Miami, MISSION UNITED and other programs. Entering our next century, we’re building on our legacy of future-focused, innovative, collaborative work to continue making a lasting impact today and for generations to come.

May 20, 2024