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Study Highlights Challenges Of Hiring A&P Graduates

Aviation Technician Education Council’s survey of MRO training schools finds aviation is losing skilled mechanic candidates to other technical industries.

Results of the Aviation Technician Education Council’s (ATEC) survey of aviation maintenance technician schools (AMTS) with FAA Part 147 airframe and powerplant (A&P) mechanic programs highlights several challenges and opportunities for the MRO community as it looks to hire the next generation of mechanics and technicians.

The ATEC survey found that the typical starting average hourly wage for an A&P program graduate is $16-20 per hour. Veterans make up 19% of the incoming mechanic workforce, 30% graduated from high school within 12 months of enrollment and 6% are female. The average age of an AMTS graduate is 26.

The results also suggest that the aviation community is losing new mechanics to other technical fields. Respondents report that one out of every four AMTS graduates pursue a career outside aviation (more than 750 graduates in the response group alone). Further, only 60% of graduates elect to take the FAA A&P mechanic test upon completion of their studies, meaning that more than 1,200 students from the response group alone have the requisite experience (and theoretically the knowledge and skills) to obtain their mechanic certificate but elect not to do so.

The data supports the conclusion that the demand for new A&Ps is high: AMTS respondents reported that 76% of their students have a job by the time they graduate from the mechanic program. The finding is in line with a 2015 survey of repair stations indicating that more than 70% of repair stations were looking to hire.

The report also states that AMTS educational institutions are working with industry partners to produce noncertificated technicians with specialized skill sets, outside of their A&P programs. Half of the schools responding provide stand-alone, aviation-related programs, including avionics (24%), composites (15%), welding (15%), unmanned aircraft systems (14%) and nondestructive testing (12%).

These certificate programs are often created to meet local employer workforce needs. For example, Wichita Area Technical College provides a sheet metal assembly, composites technology and basic avionics program outside of its A&P curriculum. Local employers guarantee interviews for program graduates, creating clear career paths for potential students. The partnership has helped the school recruit students and filled open positions at local aviation companies.

The report concludes that while workforce recruitment challenges exist, there is an opportunity to increase the flow of new mechanics and technicians through education-industry partnerships that create defined career paths. The data will be utilized to help support ATEC’s initiatives in that area. 

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