JetBlue Airways says its in-house apprentice program is a partial solution to the looming maintenance technician workforce shortage, an executive with the airline tells Aviation Week.
The median age for maintenance technicians at U.S. airlines is 51 years, or nine years older than the rest of the country’s labor pool, and new technicians are not entering the workforce fast enough to offset retirements. This demographic issue could impair airline maintenance operations, Jeff Martin, JetBlue executive vice president-operations, told Aviation Week at the MRO Americas conference in Orlando, Florida. “We need to be speaking as an industry about the shortage of technicians,” he says.
To address this problem, JetBlue last year launched a maintenance apprentice program. The two-year program allows an aspiring technician to train with JetBlue’s maintenance personnel, and the airline will assist the apprentice in getting his or her licenses and certifications.
In addition, JetBlue is helping Aviation High School, a technical school near the airline’s New York headquarters, develop a curriculum for maintenance technicians. Students who complete a five-year program at the public high school graduate with the necessary certifications to enter an airline’s maintenance operations, Martin says.
JetBlue’s maintenance apprentice program differs from its Gateway Select pilot-training program in that it does not guarantee employment at the airline. Upon completion of the four-year Gateway Select program, pilots are guaranteed employment at JetBlue. Despite that lack of a guarantee, Martin says the expectation is that graduates will join the airline’s maintenance staff.
“We are trying to influence the pipeline [of new employees] in any way we can,” Martin says. “Technician retirements will be equally important as the pilot shortage.”