What is the aerospace industry doing to address the looming shortage of qualified aviation mechanics and engineers? Is activity more focused on words or action?
In an IdeaXchange blog on AviationWeek.com, Brett Levanto, the Aeronautical Repair Station Association’s (ARSA) director of operations, stressed: “We’ve got gaps to fill, but well-trained men and women are taking their talents elsewhere.”
He points to an Aviation Technician Education Council (ATEC) survey that shows one-quarter of aviation maintenance training school graduates accept jobs outside the field. Why? Many reasons are cited: everything from wages to more opportunities in other fields that require mechanical and electrical skills.
ARSA and ATEC conducted a study in late 2014 that found the U.S. government supply and demand statistics for the MRO workforce “can’t be accurately observed,” which makes it tough to ascertain the problem. However, at least in the U.S., inconsistent employment trends exist between regions, the study found.
Haeco Americas (formerly Timco Aviation Services) has tackled the workforce issue locally and achieved great success.
A few years ago, Haeco Americas found that “schools were not teaching what we needed students to know,” says Kip Blakely, vice president of industry and government relations. So at the time, Timco, Honda Aircraft and B/E Aerospace formed a local aviation council in Greensboro, North Carolina, and started working with area middle and high schools and community colleges.
Haeco takes a hands-on approach and visits middle schools to help students with geometry problems and to promulgate science, technology, engineering and math education. It engages with aviation academies and charter schools. It is hosting its sixth, five-week job-shadowing program for high school students, with later invitations to their parents to see what kinds of activities their kids perform. By 12th grade, Blakely says, Haeco offers paid internships, after which students attend a community college to gain an associate’s degree and an airframe and powerplant (A&P) license. By the time they are 25, they can make $50,000 a year. In 2014, 52 students served as job shadowers, interns or co-ops, and Haeco Americas plans to increase that number this year, says Blakely.
That’s laying out a clear message and backing it with action.
If your company works with local A&P schools, see if it is interested in participating in the Aerospace Maintenance Competition, which will be held in conjunction with Aviation Week’s big MRO Americas Conference & Exhibition April 14-16 in Miami. It’s a great way to engage A&Ps.
Speaking of engagement, when I spoke with AAR Corp. Chairman and CEO David Storch, he stressed that AAR tries hard to provide good opportunities for its workforce. It must succeed because the company has a low employee turnover rate (see page MRO12).
Look at the company’s two pillars: innovation and execution—each of which is necessary for success.