I want to follow up on a post I previously made today regarding a lively panel at the ARSA 2012 Annual Repair Symposium regarding the aging workforce problem. Within the post, I included different viewpoints about reasons why the MRO industry is not attracting the level of new technicians that it will need to prosper in the future. In this post, I want to elaborate on some of the solutions that came up in the conversation about how to move forward on this issue.
One of the points made in the panel was that some MROs could be more involved in education. Raymond Thompson, president of the Aviation Technician Education Council, and Ryan Goertzen, VP education at Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology, gave a great example of AAR's bridge program at Spartan.
AAR participated in the college's program advisory committee and helped drive changes to sheet metal curriculum, such as using thicker materials and larger rivet sizes and guns. Then, AAR agreed to hire 10% of Spartan's graduates and provided 737NG familiarization training to instructors. Plus, employees at AAR were active at the school and met with the students regularly.
When the bridge program started, AAR committed to a student debt reduction program that allowed new employees to help pay off a few thousand dollars in loans while working at the company. This gave the new workers an incentive to stay for at least three years. AAR also worked to create a safety culture in students and provided airworthiness training to instructors. So, the program created value by giving not only the instructors and students incentive to work with AAR, but it pointed the MRO in the direction of new talent also.
This example led into the thought that students could do paid work for MROs for a period of time before coming on as full-time employees, giving them experience within a company and the ability for hiring managers to see how they initially perform in their environment.
Industry partnerships with educational institutions could be one answer way to attract more students and allow them to work on projects that they may not be able to otherwise. For example, Nordam does on-campus interviews at area colleges to teach students about their internship program, allowing them to lay up composites in a real facility and learn about Lean training. Many during the panel seemed interested in how to more closely integrate industry and education, but questions arose about how this can be done within the context of a Part 147 curriculum. Perhaps more could be done to define best practices for how to marry the two?
Michael Young, senior manager aircraft maintenance at FedEx, sits on the board of directors at the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals. He says that he sees a need to reach out to students in middle school, before they define a career in high school. Through the group, he is able to educate younger students about what the aviation industry is all about in addition to cultivating new workers at FedEx. Joining professional organizations like this could be a good step for individual MRO leaders to find their own niche in educating potential AMTs.
Participants at the panel did volunteer their own suggestions for how to solve the workforce program. For example, companies could host innovation events or challenges in the vein of the National Robotics Challenge. One person mentioned that students could build model aircraft to learn how the parts work together and why aircraft are constructed the way they are.
There are clearly an abundance of examples of people out there in the industry working very hard on workforce projects. However, are there other ways that the industry could work together to achieve more?