June 01, 2012
By Kristin Majcher
The adage goes that good people are hard to find, and many commercial MRO facilities are reporting difficulties filling maintenance positions with skilled workers. Given the outlook for MRO technicians needed throughout the aviation industry, it appears that they have reason to worry.
A Growing Need for Talent
According to Boeing's November 2011 market outlook, the number of aircraft in service will double by 2030, and the number of maintenance workers to support those aircraft will have to grow by at least 140,200 workers. The global aviation workforce must add about 650,000 maintenance technicians by 2030 to satisfy these fleet additions, yet some aviation schools say the industry is losing recent graduates to the energy, power and automotive industries. MROs are concerned about the possible effects of a skilled worker shortage, but could they be doing more to attract and retain workers?
The Aeronautical Repair Station Association (ARSA) thinks so. At its annual symposium in March, Executive Vice President Christian Klein announced that in a recent survey of ARSA members, skilled worker shortages tie for second with high fuel prices and the FAA as the most serious long-term threat to the aviation maintenance. The 93 respondents among ARSA's 443 members voted over-regulation as the highest threat.
Despite the priority that the repair stations put on workforce issues, ARSA says “very few” of its members are taking appropriate actions to attract, train and retain employees. About 14% of repair stations responding to the survey say their company serves on an advisory board at a technical school, and 25.8% participate in on-campus recruitment. Just over 5% grant scholarships to current students, 25% hire student interns and 8.6% have a mentoring program.
Fifty-seven percent of the ARSA members surveyed say they have had difficulty filling technical positions in the past two years, and 65% expect their business and markets to grow in the coming year. So, where are these desperately needed new-hires?
Raymond Thompson, president of the Aviation Technician Education Council and associate dean of Western Michigan University's College of Aviation, says he has heard about skill shortages for the past decade but has yet to see one. However, he thinks a dearth of skilled laborers will affect MROs and regional airlines in the next few years, after technician retirements increase and the industry absorbs any proposed American Airlines layoffs.