During the course of my adult working life I have been asked many times what I do for a living. My answer: I am an FAA certified A&P mechanic. Now I have other accomplishments and credentials, however my most prized accomplishment is earning this rating. Maybe it is because it was something I wanted from an early age or because it was the key to many opportunities for me and my family. I also recall the number of friends and business associates whose successful careers were launched by their A&P training and experience.
Unfortunately my enthusiasm is dampened when the recipient of this explanation displays a puzzled look and invariably responds with a host of questions starting with “I never heard of that before.” I guess most people think our industry rounds up folks at local automotive service stations and that is the basis on which private and commercial aircraft remain aloft! Sounds farfetched? Not really, when you consider our career field has literally zero visibility with the public in general and very little visibility in the educational community. This lack of visibility is the not failure of any one trade group or professional organization but rather a general malaise within our technical ranks in promoting this career choice.
Conventional wisdom fosters the idea that doctors run the hospital and hold the preeminent position in the medical field. Well it is true they play a significant role. However, look for a doctor at 10:30 at night and you will quickly realize that the nurses and a plethora of support personnel are operating the facility. Using that analogy aviation technical personnel are the force behind the scenes keeping the aircraft in the air but this is where the analogy differs. The medical profession has done an excellent job of making the public aware of career opportunities. The medical community uses every communication avenue available to promote these career fields including alliances with educational institutions and the hospitals. How often have we been presented with a barrier to conducting a simple school tour because of “insurance reasons” or “someone may get hurt”? This type of exposure is often the spark that ignites a career choice.
Management can make a difference in promoting technical career opportunitities to the next generation. It takes special effort and passion and if we do nothing we will surely have a shortfall of qualified technical personnel. The greater tragedy will be a lack of personnel because individuals do not realize this career field is available. Here are a few thoughts of how we can proactively promote career opportunities.
I always find it sad when you ask a pre-teen or teenager what your parent does at work and they do not know. Now some may not care but others had parents who never took the time to explain what they did at work. Take your child and his or her friends to work after hours, show them what you do and engender a positive attitude about your profession. Remember that little spark that ignites a career? The connection between family and work is undeniable and management should promote family involvement in the workplace.
Working at various maintenance facilities around the country I have heard a common comment from the non-aviation members of the community “I did not know they did that out at the airport” or my favorite “I wondered what all those people were doing in those hangars.”
Participating in local airport events, community services projects, and job fairs are a few examples of promoting interest in aviation within the local community. There are a few maintenance repair and overhaul (MRO) facilities that have done an excellent job in this area. We need to do more if we expect to fill future technical vacancies.
As a long-time aviation professional I have several times heard of impending shortages of aviation professionals. Over the years I have heard this warning specific to maintenance technicians, although...