The number of new aviation mechanics entering the industry is improving, but it’s not enough to fill the gap of retirements and future needs, the Aviation Technician Education Council said in a recently released report. Based on data collected by ATEC, the report said aviation maintenance students choosing to work in non-aviation jobs dropped by nearly half from the previous year, to 13 percent. Meanwhile, 70 percent of graduating A&P students are taking the FAA mechanic exam, a 10-point increase from 2016 and 2017.
But ATEC said new mechanics make up only 2 percent of the population annually while 30 percent is at or near retirement age. ATEC said at the current pace and based on its model, the aviation technician population will decrease 5 percent in the next 15 years.
According to ATEC, one solution would be to increase enrollment at AMT schools, where only one in two seats is currently taken. Filling those seats would add 17,000 students annually, it said.
More can also be done to recruit female candidates, who only make up 2.4 percent of the FAA-certified mechanic workforce, ATEC noted. That number has remained unchanged for 15 years.
Even with doubling enrollments at aviation maintenance schools, it won’t be enough to fill rising demand for mechanics. Combined with Boeing’s projection of the need for 189,000 additional technicians in North America by 2037, ATEC said schools will have to increase their combined output by 30 percent.
“There are many effective programs that connect employers and schools, and provide exposure for the aviation maintenance field as a stable, technologically advanced career,” said ATEC president and Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics director of campus operations Gary Hoyle. “However, there is an opportunity to make these programs even stronger, by supporting them with an over-arching national effort, led by industry stakeholders.”