This story was reprinted with their permission from Aircraft Maintenance Technology Magazine. Written by ATEC Communications Committee Chair and ATEC Journal Editor Karen Johnson.
Council committee chairs highlighted trade association initiatives including activities in support of FAA reauthorization’s workforce grant and Title 14 Code of Federal Regulation part 147 promulgation directive. Membership reported a 72% aviation maintenance technical school market share with sights set on 85% by 2021. Communications has begun researching opportunities for enhanced member engagement through online tools, and the meeting planning committee announced dates and locations for four regional outreach meetings and plans to hold next year’s annual conference in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Flight Standards Director Tim Shaver updated attendees on on-going management and cultural changes to improve agency processes and the subsequent impact on working relationships between local FAA offices and certificate holders. Other FAA representatives facilitated sessions and breakouts throughout the event including briefings on upcoming changes to mechanic applications and Organization Designation Authorization program elements that would allow schools to administer oral and practical testing. Officials and industry partners also gave an update on imminent airman certification standards and how the new testing standard will impact part 147 program content.
Even with the wide variety of topics discussed during the general and break-out sessions there were two prevalent themes: alleviating the technician workforce shortage and reversing the negative perception of career technical education. These issues took center stage in sessions highlighting ATEC’s Choose Aerospace initiative, results from a recent survey of aviation recruiters regarding candidate shortfalls, and a new Kansas pathway program.
Choose Aerospace is an awareness campaign spearheaded by ATEC to bring together a coalition of industry stakeholders to quantify staffing needs and promote aerospace technical careers. This year’s panel discussed solution-oriented strategies that the aviation maintenance community can implement in a concerted effort to alleviate the workforce shortage. Panelists called for companies to join the effort, and for educational institutions to help spread the word. For more information about that initiative, visit www.ChooseAerospace.org.
Directors from Textron Aviation and representatives from the Wichita Public school system briefed attendees on a new program that provides high school students with immediate technical employment potential. Kansas’ Aviation Pathway illustrated how public-private partnerships can create career paths for students while addressing local employment needs. “Wichita is a great city with dynamic relationships between education, business, and industry,” said WSU Tech Dean of Aviation Technologies Jim Hall during the session. “The program provides local employers with a skilled workforce and gives our students the training they need to begin successful careers.” The purpose of the panel was to share what the city and employers learned, and to expand existing partnerships. “Our goal as a school is to always put students first and we wanted to help other schools learn from us and we from them,” said Hall.
A popular session with attendees was an employer-run panel discussion surrounding knowledge and skill gaps for new technical personnel. Representatives from United Airlines, Piedmont Airlines, AAR Corp., Textron Aviation, and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems elaborated on results of a recent survey of industry recruiters. Attendees got direct accounts of what the perceived gaps in critical thinking and soft skills are among graduates and how educators can work to minimize them.
Following a brief message from U.S. Representative Ron Estes (R-KS), the Northrop Rice Foundation announced school and individual recipients of several awards and scholarships supported through the generous contributions of United Airlines, NIDA Corporation, Avotek, Aircraft Technical Book Company, and Snap-on to name a few. ATEC also recognized Westfield Technical Academy’s Galen Wilson as this year’s educator of the year, and Colorado Northwestern Community College’s Mikayla Green as student of the year. The two award recipients received an all-expenses-paid trip to accept the award, and for the first time, a monetary gift, courtesy of JSfirm.com.
For the third year, ATEC facilitated the Employer Link, intended to facilitate education-employer partnerships and to provide networking opportunities for attendees and 16 employer-company sponsors. This year’s event was held at the Kansas Aviation Museum, and incorporated ATEC’s first student career fair, where 100 students attended to learn about career opportunities with participating companies.
A full-day of breakouts guided attendees through various tracks focused on administration, regulatory issues, talent sourcing, instructor needs, and technical training with topics ranging from certification standards to English proficiency in the aviation field to using augmented reality in the classroom.
The conference again showcased an exhibition hall, where 21 companies and education vendors provided information and resources on everything from instructional products to tools. The largest-ever group of vendors included some new to the show, and others that have been involved for over 25 years.
The event concluded with tours highlighting Wichita aerospace. Attendees were ushered to Bombardier and Textron Aviation facilities, and visit Doc, Wichita’s Boeing B-29 Superfortress, in his new home, $6.5 million facility that opened just weeks prior to their visit.
Conference presentations and materials are available online at 2019 Annual Conference.
Stay tuned for 2020 conference dates, which will be announced soon!
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