Industry Making Progress Filling Aviation Maintenance Technician Gap, But Pace Of Success Must Accelerate To Avoid Shortages, Report Finds
The aviation maintenance industry continues to face both internal and external challenges as it strives to ensure it has enough technicians to keep aircraft flying in the coming years, including excess capacity at technical schools and the perceived attraction of other industries over aviation. But efforts to reverse these trends are gaining traction, a new status report on the report the aviation maintenance technician (AMT) career pipeline concludes.
The report, based on data collected by Aviation Technician Education Council (ATEC), found that mechanics continue to retire faster than they are being replaced. ATEC’s model projects that, absent a shift in pipeline development and retirement trends, the mechanic population will decrease 5% in the next 15 years.
New entrants make up 2% of the population annually, while 30% of the workforce is at or near retirement age—figures that are similar to findings in the 2017 ATEC Pipeline Report. Meanwhile, forecasts by the U.S. government and Boeing continue to forecast a need for thousands of additional mechanics in the next 10-20 years.
Among the most obvious solutions: increase enrollment at AMT schools. Today, only 1 in 2 seats in technical schools are taken, meaning that an additional 17,000 students can be accommodated immediately without any school expansion. Compounding the issue: a high rate of graduates go on to use their skills in non-aviation jobs, meaning leakage from within the pipeline is also an issue.
The 2018 report offered evidence that efforts to reverse these trends are paying off, however. In 2017, the number of students choosing non-aviation jobs over their aviation counterpart dropped by nearly half over the previous year, to 13%. More good news: seventy percent of A&P students are taking the FAA mechanic exam upon graduation, a 10-point increase over the previous two years.
While the data suggests progress on several fronts, industry must do more to both replace retiring workers and accommodate anticipate demand. The study shows that 30% of the mechanic population is age 60 or above, a 3% increase from last year. Combined with Boeing’s projection of 189,000 additional technicians needed by 2037 to support North America’s commercial and business aviation needs, AMTS—which produce most of new-entrant mechanics—will have to increase their combined output by 30% to meet demand.
“While industry is making progress, there is clearly more work to do,” said Crystal Maguire, ATEC executive director. “Schools are ramping up recruitment activities and expect enrollment to increase. But there is still significant opportunity for industry employers to help define career paths and attract more students into the pipeline—students that they will need as technicians in the coming years.”
Attracting more female candidates continues to be a major opportunity. The FAA airman database includes 293,000 certificated mechanics. Females make up 2.4% of the certificate mechanic workforce—a figure that has been constant for 15 years.
Successful efforts to fill the pipeline will create other challenges. Hiring and maintaining qualified instructors is the number one threat to increased enrollments, the report found. Negative perceptions and a lack of career awareness is also adversely impacting student recruitment efforts, lending further credence to the idea that the time is ripe for development of a national campaign to increase knowledge and understanding of aviation technical careers.
“There are many effective programs that connect employers and schools, and provide exposure for the aviation maintenance field as a stable, technologically advanced career,” said ATEC President and Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics Director of Campus Operations Gary Hoyle. “However, there is an opportunity to make these programs even stronger, by supporting them with an over-arching national effort, led by industry stakeholders.”
ATEC is involved in several grassroots efforts that connect aspiring technicians with employers and to spread the word of aviation’s value as a career path. Its latest is the Choose Aerospace effort (www.chooseaerospace.org), a coalition of industry stakeholders dedicated to a broad outreach campaign to quantify staffing needs and promote aerospace technical careers. ATEC also hold a series of briefings and networking events at its annual conference, scheduled for March 17-20 in Wichita. More information at www.atec-amt.org/annual-conference.
Other notable findings provided in the report:
Download the Pipeline Report at www.atec-amt.org/pipeline-report.
Filling Technical School Capacity; Directing Graduates To Aviation Careers Keys to Filling Growing Aviation Maintenance Technician Gap, Report Finds
JENKS, Oklahoma – Technical schools have ample capacity to help fill a widening gap between the demand for qualified maintenance employees and the number of new employees joining the industry, while increasing the number of females and guiding more newly trained candidates to aviation jobs offer two strategies for boosting the mechanic population. Those are the key takeaways from a new report examining the aviation maintenance technician (AMT) pipeline.
The report, based on data collected by Aviation Technician Education Council (ATEC), found that new entrants make up 2% of the AMT population annually, while 30% of the workforce is at or near retirement age. In the U.S., FAA-certified Aviation Maintenance Technician schools (AMTS) produce about 60% of new mechanics, with the military and on-the-job training accounting for the rest. As of mid-November, the aggregate enrollment at all AMTs was about 17,800 students, but their capacity is nearly 34,300.
“The need for new mechanics is steadily rising,” said Crystal Maguire, ATEC executive director. “Increasing enrollment should be a major focus of both the schools and the companies that rely on new mechanics to help support their operations.”
One low-hanging fruit: attracting more female candidates. The FAA airman database includes 286,000 certificated mechanics. Females make up 2.3% of the certificate mechanic workforce, up from 1.7% in 2001.
While filling the pipeline is important, results from an ATEC survey conducted as part of its research reiterates the need for aviation to retain the graduates AMTS schools produce. AMTS respondents estimate that 20% of graduates pursue careers outside of aviation, and only 60% elect to take the FAA test for mechanic certification.
AMTS and industry recognize these challenges, and are better defining career paths for students through innovative partnerships. When asked about formal cooperative agreements with employers, 87% of AMTS respondents said they had relationships with industry companies, with repair station partnerships leading the way.
“Connections between schools and employers in their regions are among the most promising tactics for developing sustainable aviation maintenance workforce-development pipelines, and ATEC continues to support them in a number of ways,” said ATEC President and Spartan College of Aeronautics & Technology Vice President of Business Development and Aviation Advisor Ryan Goertzen. “These collaborative partnerships are win-win: they help employers staff key positions, and serve as powerful recruitment tools for schools looking to boost enrollment.”
ATEC leads several grassroots efforts that connect aspiring technicians with employers. It has launched a series of networking events at its annual conference, and is supporting the Talent Solution Coalition, which connects schools and employers in specific workforce-development programs.
Other notable findings provided in the report:
Download the Pipeline Report at http://www.atec-amt.org/2017-survey.html.
About ATEC: ATEC is a partnership of aviation maintenance training schools and employers. The council is dedicated to promoting and supporting technician education through its communications, advocacy programs and networking events. To learn more, visit http://www.atec-amt.org/.
A focused effort to provide clear and attractive paths from aviation technician programs to the industry would help fill the demand gap for qualified maintenance employees, new survey data reveals.
The survey, conducted by the Aviation Technician Education Council, found that 25% of all graduates from FAA-certified aviation maintenance technician schools (AMTS) do not end up pursuing aviation careers. This means that from the respondent group alone—47 of the 178 FAA-certificated AMTS—roughly 750 graduates in 2015 were lost to other industries.
Further, 40% of graduates don’t sit for the exam for the FAA airframe and powerplant (A&P) license they’ve worked to earn. While some graduates may obtain mechanic certification later, the survey results help quantify the level of workforce bleed plaguing aviation maintenance.
“The loss of qualified technicians to competing industries is a significant concern for airlines, business aviation operators, and aviation maintenance providers,” said Ryan Goertzen, President of ATEC and Chief Aviation and Academic Officer of Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology. “This survey shows that there is a significant low-hanging-fruit opportunity to help bridge the gap between our industry’s schools and its employers.”
Aviation’s growth is driving demand for more technicians. Boeing’s latest workforce forecast projects that 679,000 additional technicians will be needed in the next 20 years to support the airline fleet alone. More than 110,000 of these will be needed in North America.
While there is no question that the aviation industry is facing a technician shortage, getting a handle on the issue’s scope—the first step in solving the problem—is a challenge. ATEC is leading an effort to more accurately define aviation maintenance jobs and have the updated definitions apply to government classifications. This will help quantify the number of certified technicians versus total aviation maintenance employees, for instance.
ATEC is spearheading several grassroots efforts that link aspiring technicians with employers. The association is drafting guidance to support career-pipeline programs such as dual-enrollment programs with high schools. ATEC also is holding several workforce development and employer-educator networking events at its 2017 annual conference, Apr. 1-3 in Seattle.
Among the ATEC survey’s other notable findings:
“The survey quantifies what we already know, namely that schools are reacting to the needs of company employers, notwithstanding regulatory limitations on what they can teach, and that we need to do some work to ensure students retain the interest that drew them to aviation in the first place,” said Crystal Maguire, ATEC Executive Director. “The council will therefore focus on development and cultivation of education-employer relationships to enhance curriculum, better equip schools and create career paths for future airmen.”
Out of the 178 AMTS in FAA’s database 47 provided complete responses to the survey. Of the schools that responded, 65% were public institutions (in line with the actual demographic—78% of AMTS are public schools). The AMTS community is composed mostly of smaller institutions, with 62% of survey respondents reporting fewer than 50 graduates in 2015. The average graduation rate was 70%.
For more information on the survey, see the online summary or contact ATEC.
About ATEC: ATEC is a partnership of aviation maintenance training schools and employers. The council is dedicated to promoting and supporting technician education through its communications, advocacy programs and networking events.
On Sept. 17, ATEC presented its Legislative Leadership Award to Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.).
The award, presented by the council’s board of directors, recognizes elected officials with long professional experience and deep personal commitment to technical education and skills training. As a former member of the Alabama Board of Education and chancellor of the state’s Department of Postsecondary Education, Rep. Byrne has committed a significant portion of his public life to the future of the American workforce.
The ATEC board gathered in Washington this week for the council’s annual Fly-In and fall business meeting. In addition to honoring Rep. Byrne on Thursday, board members crisscrossed the nation’s capital to meet members of Congress, staffers and officials at both the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.
At every stop, the group’s message was the same: Help aviation maintenance schools build the technical workforce of the future. Board members extolled policymakers to pass laws and develop rules to bolster the efforts of instructors and students as they build the next generation of aviation professionals. In this effort, Rep. Byrne has proven a strong partner.
“Every now and then, we come to D.C. and find an ally who ‘gets it,’” said Ryan Goertzen, ATEC’s president and president of Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology. “A person already dedicated to the cause of technical education: Someone who recognizes that by building practical, industry-demanded skills, we enhance the welfare of our citizens while guaranteeing the health of our economy. For ATEC, Congressman Byrne is such an ally.”
As a member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training, Rep. Byrne is well-positioned to lead on behalf of institutions that provide technical training.
“Based on [Rep. Byrne’s] record of service,” Goertzen concluded, “and in anticipation of the work he will continue on behalf of the students and instructors in technical programs across the nation, we hold the congressman up as an example of good service to the men and women whose technical skills keep the world safely in flight.”
On June 4, a coalition of aviation trade associations took the first step towards solving the aviation maintenance workforce crisis by helping the government to define it. The group, spearheaded by ATEC, asked the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) Policy Committee and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to revise the SOC system to more accurately reflect the aviation maintenance industry.
A broad alliance, including the Aeronautical Repair Station Association, the Aerospace Maintenance Council, Airlines for America, the Cargo Airline Association, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, the National Air Carrier Association, the National Air Transport Association, the Regional Airline Association and a Former Member of the National Transportation Safety Board, joined ATEC in submitting comments to the SOC revision process, the results of which are set for implementation in 2018.
The SOC system provides the framework for all occupational statistics collected and disseminated by federal agencies. For federal statistical purposes, it determines precisely which occupations exist and has a significant impact on the legislators, educators, employers and job seekers who utilize that data. The aviation maintenance industry has been stuck in a void – trapped under incorrect classifications – for years. Within the current system, nearly all aviation maintenance professionals are classified into a single occupation titled “Aircraft Mechanics and Technicians.”
The group requested that this lone category be replaced with three separate occupations: certificated mechanics, certificated repairmen and non-certificated technicians. Classifying workers using FAA certification is the most logical and useful method; since aviation safety rules use the same definitions to dictate precisely who is allowed to perform maintenance, preventive maintenance and alteration tasks.
Along with a requested clarification of the “Transportation Inspectors” category, the submission proposed elimination of “Avionics Technicians” as a distinct category. These professionals should be tracked based upon certification, ATEC and its allies contend, just like every other aviation maintenance worker.
“Data empowers organizations to make sound decisions,” says Ryan Goertzen, ATEC President, “With Today's SOC structure we can't build a world class work force because the data is unreliable and inaccurate to capture our industry needs.”
“You Can’t Fly Without Us: The World of Aviation Maintenance” is a documentary produced by the Aeronautical Repair Station Association (ARSA). The film was developed as part of the Leading Edge video series, which is hosted by former football coach and sports broadcaster Jimmy Johnson and distributed to public television stations in all 50 states.
Filmed on location at ARSA member facilities, “You Can’t Fly Without Us” is a valuable tool to educate key audiences about repair stations. In the seven-minute video, industry experts including former National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Mark Rosenker, CAVOK Vice President Chris Doan, ARSA Executive Vice President Christian Klein, and others explain:
How AMTS Can Take Advantage of the Video
The documentary is a resource for all industry stakeholders and will be a valuable tool in attracting and retaining the aviation maintenance workforce of the future. ARSA grants a non-exclusive license to those who wish to use “You Can’t Fly Without Us” (“the work”) for the exclusive purpose of promoting the aviation maintenance industry, including the right to distribute copies of the work and to display the work publicly. ARSA reserves all remaining rights in the work.
There are many ways your institution can use the video. Here are five to get your started:
For more information about "You Can't Fly Without Us," and access to aviation maintenance industry resources, visit AVMRO.arsa.org.
ATEC surveyed all aviation maintenance technician schools (AMTS) holding an FAA part 147 certificate in order to assess key trends in the industry and gather data about both student and institutional needs in order to plan future council programs and initiatives.
The survey period closed on Jan. 16, 2015. Out of the 172 AMTS contained in the FAA certificate database, 54 responded – nearly one third of the entire population. This strong participation rate makes the survey a reliable snapshot of the AMTS community.
Take a look at that picture; view an infographic of the results by clicking the image below.
ATEC and the Aeronautical Repair Station Association (ARSA) have released a new report examining the technical worker shortage facing the aviation industry. The study, Policy Solutions for a Stronger Technical Workforce, was authored by researchers at the College of William and Mary’s Thomas Jefferson Program in Public Policy and sheds new light on the challenges of finding, retaining and growing a world-class aviation maintenance workforce.
In the face of expanding global markets and increased demand for a highly skilled, government-certificated labor force, business must overcome the looming retirements of more experienced employees, skill gaps, regulatory limitations on training programs and – most importantly – data sources that are inadequately designed for defining the problem.
In seeking to analyze personnel, certification and education data at the regional level, the researchers encountered a familiar hurdle: frustratingly insufficient data that is often inaccurate and inconsistently captured.
Despite these limitations, as well as the unreliable reporting of national statistics, the analysis made clear that different regions of the United States face varied realities in terms of technical workforce development. As a result, the authors recommend companies and interest groups build strategic partnerships on local and regional levels between employers, educational institutions and community and government organizations.
“This report is all about defining a problem: the desperate need for more qualified, well-trained men and women to funnel into aviation careers,” said Ryan Goertzen, ATEC’s president and president of Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology. “To achieve that we must figure out how to really capture what’s going on in the workforce. Incorrect data does not help anyone and masks the real problem facing our industry today: finding skilled workers.”
The regional approach taken by the researchers provides a blueprint for the aviation community to grapple with workforce challenges. “The research team took advantage of some great examples from across the industry to give us this basic roadmap for success: think globally, act locally,” said Christian A Klein, ARSA’s executive vice president. “I know that’s an old, familiar phrase, but it’s especially useful here. The only way for businesses, government and teaching institutions to solve big, daunting national workforce problems is to look in their surrounding communities and get active in a planned, strategic way.”
“We have a passion for aviation, of course, but first and foremost we have a responsibility to our students,” Goertzen continued, speaking of the aviation maintenance training schools represented by ATEC. “We know we’re giving them valuable skills and preparing them for success in a number of technical fields, but for us true success is getting our graduates employed in the aerospace industry. This report is a part of that work.”
On Dec. 10, the Aeronautical Repair Station Association (ARSA) and the Aviation Technician Education Council (ATEC) jointly submitted a re-write of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Advisory Circular (AC) 65-30B: “Overview of the Aviation Maintenance Profession.”
The agency solicited input on the draft AC, which had been revised to include updated maintenance career information and details about military to civilian occupational transfers. As the world’s leading voices for aviation maintenance training and employment, ARSA and ATEC completely overhauled the circular.
“To ensure the government can do its job, we did ours,” said Sarah MacLeod, ARSA’s executive director. “A coalition worked to ensure the AC created an informational resource for the entire aviation maintenance industry; a blueprint for American workers to build a rewarding, valuable career. We invested the hours so the aviation technical community can benefit for decades.”
The trade associations had jointly requested an extension of the original Sep. 10 comment submission deadline. ARSA and ATEC used the time to construct a comprehensive document with references to appropriate regulations, career resources including trade organizations, labor and private industry group resources.
“Our submission tells a compelling story,” said Ryan Goertzen, ATEC’s president as well as president of Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology. “Aviation maintenance is an innovative, dynamic, prestigious industry that provides employment and careers with potential for limitless growth. Mechanics, technicians, specialists and repairmen enjoy more than competitive pay and interesting work; they guarantee the safety of the flying public worldwide.”
Stay tuned for updates on everything ATEC members need to know as well as ways that you can help the council and the AMTS community.