A new report focuses on where best to find the next generation of aviation maintenance workers.
Commissioned by AAR, which provides maintenance services to airlines and business aviation, the report advises employers to focus their recruiting efforts on the estimated 6.5 million discouraged or underemployed American workers, military veterans, and historically underrepresented groups like women, African Americans, and Latinos.
Another target is students who favor a less expensive two-year degree or industry skills certifications as a pathway to a good job over the high tuition and crushing debt of a four-year degree.
The report, “EAGLE Pathways: Bridging the Middle-Skills Gap to Careers in Aviation,” cites industry research that estimates demand for 189,000 new AMTs in North America through 2037. The number of AMTs nearing retirement is 30%, while new hires represent just 2%.
AAR has been working across the country to build partnerships with cities, states and schools to grow the pipeline, according to company officials.
On Jan. 31, 2019, AAR President and CEO John Holmes was in Indianapolis to discuss growing the aviation workforce with Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb and local and state officials under the state’s new Next Level Jobs initiative, which includes employer training grants of up to $50,000.
“We’re seeing firsthand today the ways Next Level Jobs is working for Indiana employers,” Holcomb said. “The feedback we’ve received from businesses has been overwhelmingly positive and useful. They’re helping us identify ways the Next Level Jobs initiative can be stronger and put more Hoosiers to work in better paying jobs faster.”
Holmes, along with Vincennes University President Charles Johnson, announced an expansion of their training partnership under AAR’s new EAGLE Career Pathway program.
“Students will be able to earn stackable credentials that lead to several careers at AAR,” company officials said in a prepared release. “They’ll experience job shadowing and mentoring and get academic support. Those who pursue their FAA aircraft mechanics certificate are eligible for up to $15,000 in tuition reimbursements from AAR.”
Since October, AAR has introduced the EAGLE program at colleges in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Chicago, Rockford, Ill., and Duluth, Minnesota.
“One of our top priorities is to increase training and job prospects not just for AAR but across the aviation industry,” Holmes said. “We believe more people will choose aviation if they are aware of the training opportunities and the favorable job prospects in this exciting industry.”
In other promising developments, the report cites the industry’s success at lobbying for updates to FAA training protocols and bipartisan support, led by Sen. Jim Inhofe, for provisions aimed at growing the aviation workforce included in the FAA Reauthorization Bill passed by Congress in October.
“The aviation maintenance industry offers high-paying jobs all across the nation to workers with the right skills,” said Inhofe, who is a pilot with over 11,000 hours. “The programs I authored in the FAA Reauthorization last year will help develop innovative ways to recruit and educate the next generation of America’s aviation workforce. I appreciate efforts by all stakeholders to invest in their workforce and look forward to AAR expanding these efforts to other cities where they maintain a strong presence.”
I can sum up the whole problem with one word: Liability. That is why 99% of the A&P’s pulled out.
Daniel Carlson says
I attended a local JC that had an A&P course. Turned out to be NOTHING more than an auxiliary for drugged-out hoodlums to hang out at. From what I understand, Sparta Aviation (Inglewood, CA; near KLAX), has a GREAT A&P program. Problem is, they wanted $2,500.00 up front, to be assured I was serious. They didn’t have a financial aid program, at the time.
Kenneth Hetge says
I can’t believe the author of this article “went there”, but they did. When I read “discouraged or underemployed American workers, military veterans, and historically underrepresented groups like women, African Americans, and Latinos”, an automatic “slant” is applied to the underlying message. This business needs DEDICATED individuals, without regard to any of the aforementioned descriptive status’, who are committed to a career that requires the utmost attention to detail. If you are not a person of this demeanor, STAY OUT! When society (our society!) puts a major emphasis on anything and everything but a vocational background (i.e., a college degree), you inevitably create a shortfall in talent and a persona of those being engaged in this line of business are somehow sub-par in [educational] status and the [aircraft maintenance] workforce. This line of work is a little more than flipping burgers and serving Slurpee’s. Call this shortfall in qualified individuals what you may, but unfortunately it was self-created and is a result of losing focus on “the trades”, which are essential to keeping the Country strong and the economy even stronger. Re-establish Jr. High shop classes, kick-start High School vocational programs and make apprenticeships [once again] the norm.
Tom Jackson says
I would not automatically put the military veterans in with your implied slant. A great many would fit perfectly in with any AMT shop out there. It would help if the FAA and various service branches made it more streamlined to get an A&P certificate based on the training received, but in most cases you would get highly trained, disciplined mechanics with the attention to detail you mention. I for one would take 98% of the guys coming from the military over a new trade school grad with no experience, but that might be my bias as a military guy.
I agree with Tom. Years ago, I was caught in the tech wreck and it didn’t look like I’d ever find another engineering job, so I started a community college A&P program. Among the students was a military airframer, and he was great in the shop. I wasn’t the best, but plenty good. I was really good in the class room, though.
Ray Winslow says
We need a Maintenance Certificate for old small GA aircraft, like what is approved for Experimental. Very few mechs know dope and fabric or anything about older airplanes. My all metal Swift is now 73 years old and very few shops will even work on it. One is forced to do one’s own work and find a willing Mechanic to sign it off. I know this plane after 15 years of babying it far better than anyone I can get to look at it or work on it.
What do you think?
Andy Woodside says
I would like to echo what Ray has said here. I have had a similar experience. I have owned a Navion (now 71 years old) for almost 30 years. My non-aviation profession has necessitated my relocating around the country three or four times during this period. In that time, it has becoming increasingly difficult to find local A&P mechanics with good solid Navion experience. So, I too resorted to performing my own work under A&P supervision. It did not seem to me that the situation was going to improve. I have made the effort to get my own A&P license including the Inspection Authorization. While it is not particularly easy to go down this path, it is completely doable and legal. The problem is finding a willing A&P to supervise your work.
We are in the middle of a slow-moving crisis. Next generation A&Ps will find better paying positions working on more modern aircraft. The vintage category airplanes are going to get left behind. Finding a low paid professional A&P that is willing to moonlight in the vintage arena is going to become more and more difficult. My opinion is that the “low end” GA community should promote the training of willing old pilots / owners as A&P’s via the field experience route. As new “old” A&Ps come into the system, they can pay it forward by supervising the work of other vintage aircraft owners. It is quite time consuming to get an A&P license and it does take a lot of effort so you should not expect a licensed mechanic to supervise your work for free. If, I lived next door to you and you were of the right sort, I would take you on as a student trainee. You would do all of the work on your Swift and pay me an hourly tutoring fee. I would help you keep track of your time and your skill set and ultimately help you petition your local FSDO to get permission to test out for your own A&P license.
Would you be interested in this sort of arrangement? It would not be much cheaper than going to an A&P school, but it would be much more practical. In the end, you could offer to do the same thing for the next guy and get compensated for it so it has the potential of costing you a lot less over time. The other intriguing thing here is that if you are retired like me, you can leverage the know-how to earn a little bit extra in retirement to support your flying. You could also turn things around on the industry and work in GA on vintage aircraft and moonlight for big iron.