ORLANDO – With global demand for technicians forecast to become critical over the next five years, North American maintenance companies are looking at different ways to attract new talent into the industry.
Speaking at the Heavy Maintenance Market Analysis & Trends panel at MRO Americas on Wednesday (April 11), Stephen Lim, president VT San Antonio Aerospace, an MRO under the umbrella of ST Aerospace’s U.S. headquarters VT Systems, says the parent company’s work-study program used in Singapore for many years is now being mirrored in the U.S.
The program, which begins training aspiring mechanics at high school age, is beneficial to the company as Lim feels it allows them to offer greater influence to technicians in their formative years.
“Using this approach that has proved successful in other countries can be replicated here,” he says, adding that VT San Antonio Aerospace is looking to establish a Part-147 training school. “We’ve definitely seen skills shortages here in the U.S. so we are always looking for ways of creating a reliable system that gives us a constant pipeline of mechanics.”
Paul Dolan, COO at Aviation Technical Services, acknowledges North America’s talent shortage and says one way the company has looked to address the issue is by implementing changes to its workplace culture. This was done, he says, in order to appeal more to younger technicians while refreshing the more experienced members of its team with modern practices.
“There’s been changes in the demographics of the young people coming to work for us now compared to the more senior members of the workforce accustomed to more antiquated training procedures,” he says. “This has meant a lot of investment from us into various new training techniques and programs.”
Brian Sartain, SVP repair and engineering services at AAR, says AAR is involved in similar technical training programs as VT San Antonio Aerospace and Aviation Technical Services. He feels the labor issue in North America is regionalized and varies dependent on the location of AAR’s seven facilities in the country.
“We typically don’t have any issue in finding good qualified labor in Miami which is why we have a lot of people based there, but in other areas we’ve certainly been challenged.”
One route AAR has gone down is to partner on programs with airlines which are dedicated facility customers, as well as with state government and local organizations.
Among the aims of these initiatives has been to improve the living situations of lower income students, Sartain says. “In Chicago, we have some budding efforts with lower income high schools where we’re trying to challenge students to specific technician training schools.”
Partnerships with military veterans associations has also been successful for AAR he says, where former soldiers are enrolled into specific technical school programs before joining the AAR workforce. “This is something I’d encourage the industry to take a look at considering it’s a problem we’ll all face,” he adds.