January 27, 2014
To ascertain the acuteness of the Middle East technical workforce shortage, Aviation Week and the Institute of Aeronautics at the University of Balamand in Lebanon surveyed the airline and independent maintenance, repair and overhaul providers—as well as training organizations in the region—to identify gaps in the supply of and demand for locally trained technicians.
Both surveys indicate that low salaries and highly complex regulations impede young talent from entering the MRO profession. As one MRO respondent wrote, “The salary is very low, the responsibility is very high.”
Both surveys also show evidence of industry partnering with academia by providing training materials, input into school curricula and some on-the-job training.
However, the survey points to some disconnects. The airline and independent MROs want highly skilled candidates with some experience, but training organizations in the region report that their three biggest challenges are: 1. Providing relevant on-the-job or practical training; 2. Ensuring graduates find jobs within a reasonable timeframe; and 3. Obtaining input and support from the industry.
In addition, only 67% of MRO respondents believe there is a shortage of aviation technicians and engineers, while no Middle East training professionals who answered the survey think regional trainers will be able to provide enough licensed engineers and technicians to meet the area's forecasted growth.
To put this in context, the Middle East commercial fleet will grow by about 80 aircraft in 2014 alone, with the MRO market value in the region expanding to $3.7 billion, according to Aviation Week's 2014 Commercial Aviation Fleet & MRO Forecast.
In addition, Boeing's latest 20-year pilot and technician outlook projects a need for 53,100 new technicians in the region to fuel the growth. This represents 9% of the 556,000 new technicians that will be required over the next two decades. Clearly, this is a global problem that cannot be solved singularly by poaching people from other regions.