Technical schools that produce most of aviation's new mechanics are running at about 50 percent capacity, according to a new Aviation Technician Education Council (ATEC) study. This underscores the potential they have to help fill a looming need for more technicians, the study notes.
The 170 FAA-certified aviation maintenance technician (AMT) schools had about 18,000 students as of mid-November, but they have capacity for more than 34,000, ATEC said. These schools produce about 60 percent of new aircraft mechanics, with the rest coming from the military or on-the-job training.
According to FAA data analyzed by ATEC, 27 percent of aircraft mechanics are age 64 or older, but AMT graduates entering aviation represent only about 2 percent of the total workforce annually, which is not enough to offset anticipated retirements. Add in demand for replacements—Boeing projects demand for 120,000 new aircraft mechanics in North America in the next 20 years—and the need for a fuller pipeline is clear.
Another tactic to help boost the mechanic population is keeping more students on an aviation career path, the study says. ATEC found that about 20 percent of AMT school graduates leave for other industries that hire trained technicians. Creating stronger workforce-development programs that link schools to employers is one way to address this challenge. In fact, 87 percent of AMT representatives who participated in the study report having workforce-development programs with industry.
Attracting more women is another potential growth area. FAA data shows that only 2.3 percent of the 286,000 FAA-licensed mechanics are female.