Printed headline: Analyzing Globally, Acting Locally
Where do you look for the aviation maintenance workforce of the future?
The average FAA-certificated mechanic is 51 years old, and 27% of the airframe and powerplant mechanic population is older than 63, according to the Aviation Technician Education Council. By 2022, demand for maintenance personnel worldwide will outpace supply—the gap will reach 9% by the second half of the next decade. Repair stations have been reporting difficulty finding technicians for years, and last year ARSA determined vacant positions could already be costing the U.S. industry billions of dollars. Yet newly certificated mechanics comprise only 2% of the total workforce each year.
The traditional pipeline for maintenance talent is leaking. Sealing it across an international industry requires a lot of information. Aviation stakeholders and interest groups—including ARSA and the Aviation Technician Education Council—now regularly exchange reports, analyses and updates to understand and address the whole story.
In the midst of those high-level efforts, employers have to think locally. Stimulating community-level cooperation is the aim of broad technical-education legislation passed by the U.S. Congress in July as well as FAA reauthorization language, supported by ARSA and more than 30 leading industry groups, that establishes a pilot maintenance workforce grant program. How can businesses back home take advantage of such available resources?
In June, the Teal Group released its Aerospace Competitive Economics Study, ranking each American state against eight categories of “empirical measures” affecting the business environment in which “commercial enterprises . . . efficiently and profitably produce aerospace-related goods.” These included business matters such as costs, taxes and incentives in addition to the larger issues of economic health, industry presence and infrastructure.
The report’s “labor and education” factors provide an instructive set of considerations. They include the presence of aerospace and other trained engineers, advanced degrees and the portion of workers already in aerospace production in a given population or location. The assessment also looked beyond aviation skills to include primary and secondary education investment as well as the general population with at least a high school education—a healthy workforce is diverse in skills and talent.
Industry or country-wide reports, of which there are more every year, help create meaningful “big picture” narratives about technical skills. The biggest employment challenge for aerospace companies is that they must compete against every other hands-on, highly skilled or technical industry and job in the economy.
Making good on opportunities to find new people means casting a wide net and recognizing how to attract and develop anyone with potential at the earliest possible age.
We can analyze globally, but we’ve got to act locally.
Brett Levanto, vice president of operations at Obadal, Filler, MacLeod & Klein, provides strategic and logistical support for the Aeronautical Repair Station Association. The views expressed are not necessarily shared by Aviation Week.