In response to a 2018 FAA Reauthorization Bill directive, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a new report on the aviation maintenance workforce to facilitate FAA efforts to promote a “robust, diverse workforce.” While the report recognizes limitations on datasets provided through the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the FAA, it ultimately concludes, as it did in a 2014 report, that “labor market indicators… (unemployment, wages, and employment)… were not consistent with the existence of hiring difficulties.” In other words, since wages are not going up, and the population of current technicians is not increasing, GAO concludes there is no indication of a shortage.
ATEC takes issue with the finding given 1) the Bureau of Labor Statistics data is insufficient since it does not distinguish between certificated and non-certificated technicians 2) the analysis does not appear to have taken into consideration looming retirements, and 3) ATEC data suggests that wages are in fact increasing as illustrated by the data in the soon-to-be published 2020 Pipeline Report will show that beginning hourly rates for AMTS graduates are on the rise. That said, the GAO conclusion is not necessarily counter to what industry has been seeing or saying—that the shortage may not be upon us now, but it soon will be. Indeed, the 2017 Oliver Wyman report indicated demand will not outstrip supply for maintenance technicians until 2023.
The report contains some other interesting tidbits, including a statement by FAA officials that the new part 147 rule will publish in October 2020. It also presents some much-sought-after data regarding the number of exiting military personnel with aviation maintenance technician experience, something industry will use to help us better understand the number of transitioning veterans we fail to recruit to support civil aviation.
The report comes days before a scheduled House Aviation Subcommittee hearing on aviation maintenance workforce issues. “Looking Forward: The Future of America’s Aviation Maintenance and Manufacturing Workforce,” will take place on Feb. 11 starting at 10 AM. Several ATEC member representatives will testify, including Aviation High School, Vaughn College, and Delta Air Lines.
See the hearing live on the subcommittee's website.
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