ARSA Survey On Workforce Gaps Reports Useful Findings

A snapshot of the MRO workforce, staffing issues, and what it takes to get a new hire fully trained once on board.

This summer, ARSA began asking a “Quick Question” to gauge the industry’s mood on important issues and obtain the data it needs to advocate for the MRO community.

The most successful short survey so far has focused on workforce-related issues. Every industry projection, including ARSA’s, points to sustained MRO-sector growth, but maintenance providers aren’t sure how to fill the positions required to support that future. In ARSA’s 2017 member survey, the technician shortage rated as one of the two biggest perceived risks facing repair stations.

If it’s so hard to attract qualified applicants, then it’s important to consider what happens once they actually start work.

In April, ARSA asked (and 35 members answered): How long does it take you to turn new hires into productive technicians? Respondents report the average noncertificated technician needs 14 months of development to become a profitable employee; certificated technicians need nine months. More than a few said a full two years (24 months) were needed to make a technician useful, regardless of their certification. Considering the association’s estimate that each repair station employee represents $177,000 in average annual revenue, the lost productivity associated with the onboarding time lag means a lot of unrealized revenue. 

ARSA also asked (and 28 respondents—who employ more than 1,000 technicians in total—answered): How many technical employees hold some kind of airman certificate (or none at all)?

The numbers vary depending on the organization, its work and customers. In general, the “typical” repair station has roughly as many noncertificated technicians as it does Part 65-certificated mechanics. Repairmen make up a small but important segment of the overall workforce, particularly for small, specialized shops. 

Data points such as these are critical to helping ARSA better understand its members and target our training, compliance assistance and advocacy on the right issues. Help the effort to learn and stimulate discussion: Engage with colleagues, other aviation businesses, technical schools and policy makers; help us bring those onboarding times down and help skilled workers pursue the training that would make them most effective in your shop. 

Brett Levanto is vice president of operations of Obadal, Filler, MacLeod & Klein plc. He provides strategic and logistical support for the Aeronautical Repair Station Association.


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