The Netherlands Aerospace Group (NAG) expects demand for aerospace engineers and technicians in the region to rise steeply over the next 20 years as the current MRO workforce nears retirement age, so it is partnering with a youth-focused program aimed at promoting careers in the industry.
The Educavia program, which is funded by the European Union and slated to last three years, ultimately hopes to connect students, schools and employers in the aviation sector while improving the field of MRO training. In addition to NAG’s involvement, Educavia project partners include stakeholders within the Dutch and Flemish aviation industries such as the Flemish Aerospace Group, Aircraft Maintenance & Training School in the Netherlands and VIVES University of Applied Sciences in West Flanders.
To grab the interest of younger generations, Educavia combines social media campaigns with in-person events such as job fairs where students can connect with regional MRO employers. For example, Educavia put together a Vlog this year focused on how the Netherlands Aerospace Center (NLR) is working with KLM to develop augmented reality for MRO training, which uses a Microsoft HoloLens headset to display a 3D model of an aircraft that trainees can interact with. Then, a select number of students within the Educavia program were able to connect with NLR and KLM in-person at MRO Europe in London.
NAG brought a group of eight students to this year’s MRO Europe, all of whom demonstrated a strong interest in entering the MRO sector. In addition to meeting with companies exhibiting at the Netherlands Pavilion, the students were able to walk the exhibition floor to learn more about what various MRO companies do, ask questions and network for future internship and job prospects.
According to Nienke Collée, communication manager at NAG, the students were enthusiastic about the experience, particularly because they were able to see that there is more to MRO than traditional engine and airframe maintenance. Collée points out that grabbing the interest of younger generations entails highlighting things they care about, such as new technology and environmental sustainability.
“I think it’s important to show that we innovate, because MRO is kind of a conservative sector—and that’s good because it’s all about safety—but [we need to] also show that we care about sustainability, that we are innovative and that it is not the same work every day. That’s very important,” she explains.
NAG believes attending events like MRO Europe are beneficial to the Educavia program and it is considering bringing students to next year’s event in Barcelona. The program brought a group of around 60 students to MRO Europe in Amsterdam last year, but it was more difficult to arrange a trip to London and Collée expects Educavia will face similar challenges next year.
Collée says that despite shrinking class sizes due to fewer students going into and staying in technical aviation studies, Educavia is continuing its efforts to grow. The program is scheduled to go through 2020 and also aims to develop innovative MRO training programs in the region to help maintain a regional workforce pipeline.