Standard Occupational Classification
The Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) System is the federal government’s tool for organizing and categorizing every job in the United States. The SOC provides a statistical framework by classifying similar jobs into “occupations” that the government must use when collecting workforce data. That information is in turn used by educators, guidance counselors, students, employers and policy makers to analyze the American labor force.
The system’s classification hierarchy begins with 23 major groups. Beneath these are minor groups, broad groups and detailed occupations. All aviation maintenance professionals fall under the same major group, minor group, broad group and detailed occupation, with the sole exception of avionics technicians. In other words, nearly all aviation maintenance professionals are lumped into one category – “Aircraft Mechanics and Technicians” – regardless of certification or specialization.
Aviation Maintenance in the SOC
Essentially, the aviation maintenance industry has been stuck in a void – trapped under incorrect classifications – for years. Classifying certificated mechanics along with non-certificated technicians skews data by constraining a diverse class of professionals into a basic, single box describing its work. As a result, the government’s figures on wages, job openings and labor force do not consider varying federal aviation safety requirements and their impact on maintenance work. This is troubling for multiple reasons:
- When investigating careers, students are misinformed about the industry’s professional benefits.
- Researchers, human resources professionals and industry analysts are unable to accurately define the industry’s workforce needs.
- Since all federal agencies use the SOC as a standard system of occupational data collection and dissemination, government reports regarding the aviation maintenance workforce are routinely flawed.
- The government’s inability to forecast future supply (as a result of biased data) impacts the ability of regulators and industry members to ensure aviation safety.
The SOC is periodically reviewed and updated, with its next revision publication scheduled for 2028. Until then, government representatives will solicit industry feedback and comment on suggested changes.
- “Aviation Coalition Shows Government How to Count,” Press release regarding ATEC-led coalition comments to SOC Policy Committee, filed June 4, 2015
- ATEC-lead industry coalition comments to the SOC Policy Committee, filed Sept. 20, 2016