Industry To Address Looming Technician Shortage

AINmxReports » January 30, 2013
January 30, 2013, 12:50 PM

As the economy slowly improves, the industry is again experiencing a shortage of technical personnel, and many MROs are finding that the demand for service exceeds their capacity to provide it. Chicago-based AAR has gone on the road recruiting for 200 technical positions in the Duluth, Minn. facility, and Premier Aviation of Trois-Rivieres, Canada, is also feeling the pinch.

“It’s a challenge for the aviation industry these days. Everybody’s advertising for people and the pool is getting smaller and smaller,” said Dave Diggle, Premier Aviation vice president of marketing, sales and service. “We’re not looking for [just] a handful of people. Given the opportunity to take on a significant number of people, we would hire them.”

Concerned about the lack of technical talent in aviation, from pilots to mechanics, Aviation Workforce Development (AWD) and the Professional Aircraft Maintenance Association will host the Aviation Workforce Think Tank. Both AWD and PAMA believe that the U.S. aviation and aerospace industries must act now to retain their leadership positions on the world stage. As older workers move toward retirement or into different fields, new workers search to develop their careers, and incumbent populations hope to regain employment.

“The objective of the Think Tank initiative is to bring together a small group of key aviation and aerospace industry leaders to address this looming crisis, bring real-time action items to the agenda, and create measurements with tracking and reporting to monitor and follow through with deliverables to tackle this daunting issue,” said Dr. Tara Harl, founder and director of AWD. “I would like to get people out of their comfort zone and persuade this industry to do something about the issue. One of our goals is to create a neutral competent organization.”

The Aviation Workforce Think Tank will be held on May 7 in Minneapolis. The following organizations have committed to the project: Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association, Aeronautical Repair Station Association, Experimental Aircraft Association, Boeing, Jeppesen, Metropolitan Airports Commission (MSP), National Air Traffic Controllers Association, NBAA, Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals, United Airlines and Women in Aviation International. The Think Tank will be moderated by AIN journalist David A. Lombardo.

PAMA is happy to have partnered with AWD on this unprecedented event. We’re bringing the key alphabet organizations and companies together to discuss how to address the shortage of new employees we will be seeing worldwide over the next ten years. It is something that needs to be done and we are ecstatic about the cooperation we are seeing from the industry,” Dale Forton, PAMA’s president, told AIN.

 

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Ryan
on January 30, 2013 - 3:12pm

The root cause is the entry level wage for this industry. A person with an A&P is highly sought after by other industries including the oil and gas and automotive industries. If companies want to recruit better talent then they are going to need to raise the entry level pay. If not the pool of technicians will continue to shrink as they have to compete with the higher paying oil fields.

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Brian Harrington
on January 30, 2013 - 4:09pm

We Sr's in this industry all agree in my circle. Why would a young man or woman graduate A&P school and accept a wage consistently 25-35% lower entry level for aviation position when they can join automotive diesel and amusement industries for a much higher start wage. Do the math here folks the Love of Aviation and or the dreams of working for an airline to be able to travel the globe on a non passenger revenue ticket are non existent. The aviation love is still there but why not just work make more money buy your own airline ticket or pay for flying lessons with the extra money you make signing on with your first job at Disney or Six Flags. Auto technicians at dealerships are paid by flag hours they sell 20 hours worth of labor they bill 20 hours worth of labor and with experience and efficiency they will accomplish the task in ten or less hours. A&P Technicians can sign up for overtime and get time and a half then open that paycheck to view the stub and ask themselves why?
I hope the Convention goes well on May 7th I am looking forward to reading reviews about it. I certainly hope more than a few groups you mentioned are invited. I'm certain my company would like to send at least one or more of our 250+ highly trained educated with the majority having A&P's and MBA's among dozens of other degrees.

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Mark Grady
on January 30, 2013 - 5:22pm

While I completely understand the wage issues and arguments, I personally believe it is not the root problem. Remember policemen and teachers don't make career decisions based on income. Many pilots accept very low wages to get in the door.

The REAL problem is inspiration. Those of us involved in any way in aviation do a great job of selling our love within the family, but not so good outside the family.

With the right inspiration, I'm totally convinced we can revive the industry and all aspects of aviation.

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John DeMario
on January 30, 2013 - 5:39pm

Said it before, I'll say it again, stop treating A&P's, IA's, and Avionics personal like "unskilled labor"...as the government STILL has us listed as..., start paying us like we are sought after, and the problem will dissolve. I've been reading this crap about shortages since 1985...bottom line...there is no shortage of qualified AMT's, what there is is a acute shortage of leaders and senior management that understands and respects technicians. We evolved to a MBA based industry long ago...just look at any other industry that become dominated by bean counters and MBA's, they've all gone down the tubes, filed for chapter 13 or had to be bailed out by the government. Just ask AAR what they are paying, or virtually any other company out there, entry or senior level...then you won't wonder anymore why those of us with the skill sets sought after and the tickets to back them up flee to greener pastures.

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John Gibson
on January 30, 2013 - 5:54pm

I agree with the above: we get to this industry because we have a passion for aviation. If we did it for money, nobody would be a tech. That said, I made a very comfortable living. After I climbed the ladder, and got away from the FBO scene.

If you pay, you will have people. I once worked for an FBO early in my career. Loved the comany, loved the people, loved aviation. One of the owners, owned a ford dealership. His techs were paid more than my techs! I left, simply over money.

As long as government and FAA views techs as unskilled labor, nothing will change. Many alphabet groups are working hard to change our image. Much has been done, and I applaud the efforts being made. I work hard privately to promote aviation, and aviation maintenance. I try to find jobs for people, and people for jobs. There is a reason why so many techs are hired by other industries, right out of school! Our training provides qualified people that can turn their hand to many different disciplines. It saddens me that the FAA and our own industry doesn't share that value.

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Andrew
on January 30, 2013 - 7:06pm

The pay factor is an issue.Why move across the country for a position for $12 an hour, or at best $16 to get yor foot in the door. As a new AP tech,I have seen this.But worse the companies aren't taking new techs straight from school. It took me a year and a half just to find one company.These componies say they want more poeple. All they are taking is poeple with 5 or more years experince.With all that, why should anyone go into this feild with that much problem starting out.if they can even start at all. I love the maintence feild, hopefully oneday this issue gets fixed so others can too.

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matt
on January 30, 2013 - 7:55pm

I think the title to my response says it all. Aviation is becoming less and less competitive with the rest of the technical, vocational world as far as pay is concerned. As several responders have said, until the pay and QOL become competitive with other vocations, aviation maintenance providers will have problems getting people to work for them. No different than the alleged pilot shortage. Sooner or later the $99 New York to Florida airline fare is going to bite everyone in the behind.

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David A. Lombardo
on January 30, 2013 - 8:05pm

While money is somewhat of an issue, what I’ve found is there are other variables that mechanics consistently list ahead of money as negatives about the occupation. Little advancement potential, respect for the profession, 24/7 work environment, significant liability issues and poor, or a lack of, benefits. 

 

dal

 

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matt
on January 30, 2013 - 9:24pm

Sounds like you just answered the "challenge" you wrote about in your article. To bad the industry and aviation in general is so blind. I did mention QOL in my response.

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Ron
on January 30, 2013 - 8:28pm

I have my A&P for 7 years now and I am forced to start my own business to make the money i should be making I went to several job fairs through NAA and they all wanted to start me around 15 - 18 dollars an hour. an airplane is an airplane they all fly they all pressurize the same way just some of the computers/engines are different ball park figure of course.

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Andrew
on January 31, 2013 - 12:32am

As a senior A&P with over 30 years of experience I feel compelled to add my 2 cents worth to this discussion. In virtually no other field does so much ride on the technician (I loathe the term "mechanic"). We routinely work on aircraft worth millions of dollars often carrying hundreds of passengers in all conditions. Although I have made it up the ladder far enough to enjoy a pretty good job now, the following has been my experience in this industry and talking with my fellow journeymen I know I have not been alone in experiencing this. Let's start with the lowest wages they can possibly pay and still get a body with a pulse. The chance to buy thousands of dollars of tools out of our own pockets with no tax break allowed. To work outside in the rain and snow and blinding sun or inside in freezing hangars. To be forced to sign contracts in order to receive training that companies have to provide as condition of retaining their service center statuses and to have your wages included in the payback amount when you leave. To be subject to managers who truly can't manage and in many cases who are utterly clueless as to what you actually do. To be sent home with no pay when times get rough. To work with virtually no benefits. To be fired when we break over our allotted quota of expensive parts no matter what the circumstances. To be subject to random drug and alcohol programs with the very real possibility of a false positive ruining your career. To have to retain a lawyer in the aftermath of an accident and to be charged with felonies in the event the Justice Department can find one to pin you with. To be able to lose your license and your livelihood in the event the FAA brings an enforcement action against you. Not to mention being overworked day after day with no relief and black looks from management when you point out the safety aspects of having technicians wandering around like zombies. Sound jaundiced? that's because I am. I am also appalled at what I and my fellow technicians have had to endure to make a living in this industry. I've heard about technician shortages before and nothing is ever done about it. I'm afraid I feel that if there is a shortage coming it will be dealt with in the usual manner by our illustrious leaders by outsourcing maintenance overseas, cutting back on higher paid skilled personnel and using more unqualified people working under the ones that remain. I have two sons and I have consistently warned them away from this industry and I would give the same advice to anyone trying to get into it if asked -don't bother as it truly is not worth it.

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