The past few years have shaken up most industries in the world but the aviation industry was one of the most dramatically affected.
After many COVID restrictions were lifted, airline travel rebounded much faster than the airlines expected. As we know, there is a dramatic increase in the demand for employees throughout the aviation industry. In a simple search you can find hundreds of articles referencing the need for pilots and crewmembers; however, the demand for aviation technicians is rarely included in the conversation.
It goes without saying that maintenance technicians are essential to the aviation industry. Pilots can’t fly planes that aren’t properly maintained and deemed as safe.
Much like the airlines, one of the biggest factors causing this shortage is the difference between technicians retiring compared to the lack of new technicians joining the industry. This provides the perfect storm for a major aviation disaster in the future.
Decades of telling young people the key to a successful life is going to college has done significant damage to the labor pool for aviation maintenance technicians, like so many other “blue-collar” jobs.
To try and tackle this foreseeable problem, many aviation companies are offering more hiring and referral incentives for maintenance technicians.
Many major and midsize aviation companies have announced plans to hire thousands of technicians. In a yearly report, Boeing has announced they’re planning to lay off 2,000 office positions (heavily focused on finance and HR) while bringing on 10,000 positions concentrated on engineering and maintenance.
Pencil pusher jobs are necessary to run any business; however, the focus of students attending traditional college over the past few decades is starting to be felt worldwide.
In addition, United Airlines announced last year that while they are increasing their fleet size, they will also be adding on 7,000 maintenance positions to ensure proper safety for their aircraft.
While it’s great to hear about the additional aviation maintenance jobs becoming available, we need to remember the lack of properly trained personnel for those jobs.
There are many reasons why there’s a major gap in labor demand, but the biggest reasons suspected are the high number of baby boomers retiring and the lasting economic effects of COVID. According to a Forbes article, nearly one-third of maintenance technicians are at or near retirement age and there aren’t enough new aviation technicians coming into the field to replace them and meet the growing demand.
Some predict the worst year for the shortage in the near future will be by 2027 with a shortfall of labor by 40,000 technicians. This demand is felt all over the world (mostly in North America, Asia, and Europe) and could put a major damper on the aviation industry if not handled ahead of time.
I predict we’ll see more hiring announcements from the major and regional airlines this year. And while those announcements are great to see, without the proper incentives, they aren’t going to do much.
Last year we saw hiring bonuses for pilots climb to all-time highs. With American Airlines getting all the way to $150,000 doled out over several years.
But hiring bonuses aren’t necessarily the right solution to the aviation maintenance technician shortage.
Piedmont Airlines announced a unique program for aviation maintenance technicians. Through their Tuition Payment Program students can attend one of their partner schools and Piedmont will cover the cost of the program (up to a limit).
An airline offering to outright pay for an AMT’s training is unheard of, but it’s something I hope we see offered by other aviation companies. For most people, the cost of education is the biggest barrier to entry in becoming an AMT.
So if more airlines will offer incentives like this one in addition to increasing AMT pay, I think we’ll see far more maintenance technicians created in the near future.
There are many reasons why this issue has occurred and many situations that can improve it, but key players in the aviation industry will have to work together to solve this. Changes like this don’t happen overnight and won’t be a quick fix.
I applaud the companies that are trying to gain traction in the field, but if we don’t get the ball rolling now there will be a major crisis years from now.