Collaborative Approach Needed To Address MRO Workforce Shortage

All stakeholders need to be involved in finding durable solutions to the growing shortage of MRO workers, especially in the U.S.

Printed headline: Useful Platitudes

 

“You are abysmally shallow when it comes to this subject that you write about—more than most.”

I received this feedback in response to my August editorial “Analyzing Globally, Acting Locally.” It reported on the studies investigating the current and future state of the aviation MRO workforce, noting that broad reports are useless without community-level action.

The exasperated pen pal of mine saw the editorial as not just an indicator of my shortcomings but a demonstration of industry-wide failure.

“You’re talking to the wrong people; you’re walking away from those conversations with useless platitudes and false statements,” he said, before insisting nobody knows what to do to save the aviation workforce (well, he apparently knows but isn’t sharing).

Here’s the thing: He’s right.

He’s correct that no single person has the solution. A perfect fix won’t come gift-wrapped from Washington, Montreal, Brussels or any center of government oversight or industry strategy.

The aviation workforce suffers from cultural, economic, political and business pressures. Changing technologies, educational trends and the denigration of technical careers—particularly in the U.S.—have left employers behind in the race for hands-on talent. 

The role of ARSA and other aviation groups like the Aviation Technician Education Council is to help the industry attract competent people.

What is ARSA doing? Quite a lot.

•Building an industry-wide, 30-plus member coalition that successfully lobbied Congress to pilot an AMT workforce grant program through this year’s FAA reauthorization bill.

•Working with the FAA to improve training policies and oversight of airman certificates to facilitate career paths and professional growth.

•Supporting international efforts focused on aviation human capital around the world.

•Building resources like AVMRO.arsa.org—through which we publicize the industry documentary “You Can’t Fly Without Us”—to help educate policymakers, employers and potential technicians about the industry. (We’re in the early stages of completely overhauling AVMRO.arsa.org/careers; you can help by sharing what you think best illustrates the value of aviation MRO work.)

•Speaking at events—and to anyone who will listen . . . even Congress—about the industry’s needs, and working to support technical skills development.

•Coordinating with military leaders and industry employers to boost active-duty recruitment efforts and ease transitions into civilian work.

•Improving U.S. government analysis to correct the “outlook” for maintenance employment and mandating —through Congress—a new study of aviation employment factors.

•Celebrating and spreading the word about what is working, and where and how it can be used elsewhere.

With all the workforce-related anxiety circulating, it’s understandable for much of the discussion to feel “useless.”

It’s not.

Go to arsa.org/contact and tell the association what you think. What’s going on in the maintenance workforce? What does it need? What’s going wrong? Right? Most important: How can we help?

Let’s continue the discussion. You can help make the industry stronger and make me just a little less shallow. 

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

 

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