Aviation Maintenance Careers: We Can’t Fly Without You
Every year, more people are flying. The expansion of the global middle class and improvements in technology have opened aviation markets – for passengers and cargo – to a broader public than ever before.
To keep up, the businesses that provide aviation services – manufacturers, operators, maintainers and logistical management firms – need workers. Boeing’s 2017 Pilot and Technician Outlook forecast the global commercial air transport industry will need more than two million new workers – 637,000 new commercial airline pilots, 648,000 new maintenance technicians and 839,000 new cabin crew – through 2037.
For maintenance providers, that long-term growth represents roughly 30,000 new technicians per year worldwide – 5,900 in North America – with the strongest growth in Asia. Even more, that number only covers new jobs; to fill gaps in existing positions aviation businesses will need even more workers, particularly as older generations begin to retire.
Not surprisingly, most aviation maintenance industry executives are optimistic about the future. About 60 percent of the respondents to a 2017 survey by the Aeronautical Repair Station Association expect their markets to grow in the coming year. To capitalize on new business opportunities, repair stations need skilled employees. More than half (55 percent) of the survey respondents planned to add new employees and positions in the next 12 months.
But that could be a challenge. Eighty-two percent of ARSA survey respondents said they had trouble finding skilled workers over the past two years, with close to one third (31 percent) saying it had been very difficult to find workers. Additionally, recent surveys by the Aviation Technician Education Council (ATEC) indicated that nearly one out of every four graduates from aviation maintenance training programs winds up working in other industries. According to an ARSA projection across the entire population of FAA-certificated repair stations in the United States, the number of open positions in 2017 was close to 11,000. With those positions unfilled, the industry stood to miss out on as much as $1.95 billion in economic activity in 2017.
Skills in the Spotlight – the Aerospace Maintenance Competition (AMC)
Administered by the Aerospace Maintenance Council and championed by John Goglia, former member of the National Transportation Safety Board, AMC pits teams of aviation mechanics, technicians, engineers and students in a test of their combined abilities. The competition’s sole purpose is to raise awareness of the training and skills needed to provide safe and airworthy aircraft worldwide while providing a venue for AMT students to celebrate their technical competency on a grand and public stage. The event is hosted annually alongside Aviation Week’s MRO Americas conference.
For AMT schools, competition at AMC is a great opportunity regardless of the final score. Participation provides instructors a means to encourage the ambition of their students and expose them to the broader maintenance community. It also elevates the institution’s brand, each team member a school-color-clad ambassador of the many classmates and faculty back on campus.
For students, the reward for their hard work is more than just a sightseeing trip and champion’s trophy; it’s a chance to demonstrate talent while connecting with prospective employers.
For aviation businesses, the AMC is an invitation to meet the workforce of the future and celebrate service of the flying public worldwide. Through sponsorships, attendance and attention, the community can shine the spotlight on itself.
To learn more, celebrate the winners and see when the competition opens next, visit: www.aerospacemaintenancecompetition.com/
Finding Aviation Maintenance Technicians (and Other Skilled Workers)
For maintenance organizations looking for skilled technicians – regardless of certification level – it is important to cultivate resources. While local engagement is important, the following references can be valuable for HR departments, recruiters, executives and owners looking to expand their workforce (or fill gaps).
A&P Certificated AMTs
ATEC’s member schools are constantly graduating newly qualified A&P mechanics. To see a list of council members and find those nearest to your location(s), click here.
Searching for skilled workers can be difficult regardless of certification level. Aircraft repair stations depend on many different workers with various skill sets, including welders, sheet metal technicians and non-destructive testing specialists. Finding this kind of talent requires understanding local networks and resources:
- Career technical education programs, run through community colleges, private technical schools and high schools can provide a pipeline of new, skilled workers for maintenance organizations. Get involved with state CTE directors, schools and local professional organizations. To see the CTE resources in your state, click here.
- The National Skills Coalition provides resources through its Business Leaders United program for employers looking to build relationships with training institutions. To see resources for getting more involved in developing skilled workers in your area, click here.
Becoming an Aviation Maintenance Technician
The projected industry growth and job demand represent an important opportunity for people considering a career in aviation maintenance. Aviation technicians work in an exciting, prestigious industry and, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, earn salaries ahead of most other technical industry jobs: The government’s employment outlook for the industry is currently “above average.”
For information about aviation maintenance careers in the United States, visit the following resources from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
- For a general overview, click here.
- For information about job qualifications and training, click here.
- To find out what types of jobs aviation maintenance technicians perform, click here.
- For information on wages and salaries in the industry, click here.
Video courtesy of Embry Riddle Aeronautical University.
There are many ways to begin a career in aviation. Maintenance providers often hire laborers – skilled and unskilled – for a variety of positions and apprenticeships. However, the highest responsibility and greatest opportunity for career advancement below to FAA-certificated mechanics.
To become a certificated mechanic, you must:
- Be at least 18 years old.
- Be able to read, write, speak, and understand English.
- Get 18 months of practical experience with either power plants or airframes, or 30 months of practical experience working on both at the same time. As an alternative to this experience requirement, you can graduate from an FAA-Approved Aviation Maintenance Technician School.
- Pass separate written, oral, and practical examinations.
Many aspiring mechanics attend formal, government-certificated training programs to earn skills and experience necessary for certification. The FAA is willing to consider the time spent in sanctioned training programs to be the same as professional experience. After completing a training program, graduates have two years to pass the FAA aircraft mechanic’s exam. The exam consists of written, oral, and practical application sections.
- For more information about aviation maintenance education (including scholarships for attendance), visit the Aviation Technician Education Council at www.atec-amt.org.
- For more information from the FAA about how to become a certificated mechanic, click here.
- For more information about the aviation maintenance industry – specifically the businesses contracted to provider maintenance services – visit the Aeronautical Repair Station Association at ARSA.org.
- Learn more about job opportunities at the FAA, which regulates the industry and certificates (i.e., licenses) mechanics, here.
- To access resources from the FAA’s Aviation and Space Education (AVSED) Program, click here.
Video courtesy of Aviation Institute of Maintenance (AIM).
Businesses have begun cooperating with their communities to build local talent. For a great example from North Carolina, visit http://www.aviationtriad.com/. (Video at top of page courtesy Aviation Triad.)
Aviation trade associations offer financial aid and support to individuals interested in pursuing or advancing aviation maintenance employment or careers. Examples include:
- Aircraft Electronics Association (AEA) Educational Foundation Scholarship Program has awarded more than $1 million to students seeking careers in the aircraft electronics and aviation maintenance industry. Numerous scholarships are available ranging from $1,000 to more than $35,000.
- Aviation Maintenance Technician (AMT) Society scholarships financially assist those working towards a mechanic certificate from the FAA as well those already holding a certificate in furthering their professional education and training.
- Helicopter Foundation International (HFI) offers an array of scholarships to answer the need for both qualified helicopter pilots and maintenance technicians, and to provide further training for safety managers and other professionals in the safety field.
- National Air Transportation Foundation (NATF), the research and educational arm of the National Air Transportation Association (NATA), offers several categories of scholarships.
- National Business Aircraft Association Charities scholarship program offers a wide range of options for current and aspiring business aviation professionals; both students and working professionals.
- The Northrop Rice Foundation (NRF) administers awards and scholarships sponsored and funded by the NRF, ATEC, and other aviation-related firms, associations, and organizations. These awards and scholarships distribute cash or aviation equipment, student tuition assistance, and instructor professional-develop workshop participation opportunities.
- The Regional Air Cargo Carriers Association (RACCA) Aviation Scholarship promotes and assists in make aviation as a career choice and to make students aware of the opportunities in the air cargo industry.
- Regional Airline Association (RAA) Scholarship provides financial support for the education of individuals who are studying for a career in the airline industry.
- Women in Aviation International provides a substantial list of scholarships in a vast array of civil aviation employment and career opportunities for its members.