ARSA and its members have been ringing alarm bells for years about the MRO community’s technician shortage. The association has been working with regulators for sensible oversight of personnel requirements, walking the halls of Congress to press for better career technical education policy and facilitating the sharing of best practices between our members, technical schools and industry advocates.
We still have a long way to go, but it’s good to see that other parts of the aviation industry have finally risen to the challenge. I saw this in November at Airlines for America’s second AMT Career Forum at JetBlue’s headquarters in New York. The event stimulated active discussion on how workforce development is about more than the quantity of job applicants—any human capital issue must be approached from a perspective of quality.
Let’s build on that idea—quality—in terms of the general challenge of finding good people.
Finding and retaining good people is a shared responsibility. Repair stations, component shops, manufacturers and operators must cooperate with community organizations, government agencies and educational institutions to help produce the right talent. They must find ways to share or provide equipment and expertise, build mentorship or apprentice opportunities, endorse or co-manage learning programs and collaborate in telling the story of the maintenance industry.
Attracting new technicians has always been a family affair. Young men and women whose parent, sibling or cousin worked on a flight line would be introduced to the work and make it their own. But those communal ties are breaking, and we need to figure out how to target previously unreached groups as well as new ways to attract candidates, better technologies to manage their personal development and a more durable strategy to handle churn in the mid-level workforce.
Producing skilled talent seems like a linear process: from student to applicant to employee and on through a carefully charted career. In reality, it needs to be circular, where everyone involved improves the system through communication so schools turn out better students, technicians develop better skills and hiring managers receive better options.
Through this kind of smart, cooperative engagement, we can improve the quantity and quality of the MRO workforce.
Brett Levanto is vice president of communications at the Aeronautical Repair Station Association.