Qualified technicians are in high demand as more and more aircrafts are being made and used. Boeing has estimated in their market outlook for 2016-35 that 679,000 aircraft maintenance technicians will be needed to match the expected worldwide requirement. The largest market for these technicians will be in the Asia-Pacific region (269,000), followed by North America (127,000) and Europe (118,000).
Technicians who specialise in composites and high-tech avionics will be sought after the most, but technicians of every skill set are will be in scarce supply. In the 5-6 years it takes to become a fully productive mechanic, many cease pursuing the end goal or move their focus to different industries such as the amusement park or the oil and gas industries.
This shortage of technicians has prompted an appeal to make more young people aware of the opportunities available to them within the airline industry and the possibilities for them to embark in a career in aviation. ‘To do that, programs must be established that will target the K-12 grades—even if there may not be an immediate payback,’ says Bob Ireland, Airlines For America (A4A) managing director of engineering and maintenance.
It is difficult to maintain a high calibre of technicians within this industry. ‘We test our applicants on repair- work capability, regulatory knowledge and soft skills, which relate to how well they will fit into the work environment,’ says Mike McDaniel, ExpressJet Airlines’ general manager. ‘About one-third fail, while another third are marginal. If I had a 90% pass rate, then the quantity [of available technicians] issue would be a lot more manageable.’
Some blame the shortage of technicians on the FAA FAR Part 147, whereby students are qualified with a general knowledge rather than a more specific or detailed knowledge of how to troubleshoot an aircraft. In some cases, there are schools who offer extra programs in complex avionics, but few take part because of the prolonged time-period and extra costs.
As the aircrafts advance, the calibre of the aviation technicians will also have to follow suit. Internships, partnerships and apprenticeships are a great way to deal with the shortage of technicians, introducing people to the trade but also introducing employers to prospective employees. People with a background in science, technology, engineering and math will be particularly desirable for these positions as applicants will be expected to be able to deal with advancing technologies and management roles. By connecting with young aspiring technicians while they are still training, companies can expect them to be more well-rounded when they are qualified.