Written by Kim Poppke Thursday, 17 May 2012 10:47
The recurring theme in each tradeshow and conference Airport staff recently participated in was skilled workforce. As expected, such dynamic events as Aviation Week's MRO Americas and Civil Aviation Manufacturing conferences, as well as the annual World Aviation Training Symposium (WATS), addressed many industry issues. Common to all however, was the need for a highly skilled professionals.
Much about the aviation industry was covered but - phrased in different ways and presented by different voices from alternate perspectives is the fact that - thousands of jobs are going unfilled! That's right - while communities experience record unemployment, major employers struggle to find workers. This is not a particularly new challenge but multiple issues have combined to reach nearly critical levels. Employers such as Boeing, Airbus, Pratt & Whitney, Goodrich, almost all airlines and others have many more openings than they have qualified candidates to fill them.
When inviting leading Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) businesses to consider occupying the soon-to-be-built spec MRO facility here, the question arises about available advanced manufacturing workforce. Thanks to area technical training campuses, retired military and resident talent that would prefer to avoid a Tampa commute, it's a pleasure to say "We've got that covered!" In fact, an Aviation Maintenance training (FAA Part 147) center is part of the airport vision. With the community college ready to be a partner and a motivated, available student pipeline, it will be a natural fit.
See the excerpt below from the April Aviation Week Overhaul & Maintenance magazine entitled "Competitive Weave"
“[While] there's strong demand in the market to produce a lot of man-hours for the U.S. customer base, there's a major skills shortage gap,” asserts Chris Jessup, AAR senior VP of sales and marketing. Even with U.S. unemployment stuck at 8.5-9% at presstine, he says the MRO has hundreds of positions unfilled. The result? AAR's four airframe facilities are sold out.
The skilled labor shortage is not confined to AAR. “For several years, we have been faced with this difficulty,” echoes Chye Kiat Ang, ST Aerospace 's executive VP for airframe maintenance and modification. The issue is exacerbated by conflicts in the Middle East, he says, conflicts that have prompted many mechanics to leave North America to work there.
It's no secret that there is a looming pilot shortage but what was a surprise is that some are experiencing the shortage right now. Federal rule changes, retirements and other elements combine to make the openings. Low numbers of pilot students entering the pipeline mean reduced candidates. One regional airline pilot recruiter actually marked the date in March when he reached the bottom of his "stack of applications".
Airplane manufacturers and suppliers need thousands of skilled workers to build airplanes. While it may be hard to reconcile the difficulty in filling positions with high unemployment rates, the key distinction applies to skill sets. Warm bodies are not enough; design and production engineers are required. Commercial pilots with Air Transport Professional (ATP), equipment-specific ratings with experience are needed. And, in order to maintain and repair aircraft, individuals must hold an Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) license or Aircraft Maintenance Certificate. The source of the common threads across the high salary, high job security, professional positions that are so abundant is education. The threads twist and weave through access to skill building and different education and training choices. For those who seek not just a job, but a professional position for which there is growing demand, applying your skills and talent to become a specialist is really the right fit.