Editor's Viewpoint: The Next Generation

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 I have not personally witnessed shortages — perhaps you or your company has experienced this situation in the past. Given the current economic times of this country and the world, it is difficult to imagine a shortage of skilled aviation professionals. Any shortage seems like a long way off and hard to accept when so many aviation professionals are unemployed. A recent article on this subject by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) regarding the next generation of aviation professionals caught my attention.

In March of this year ICAO released a summary of a five-day meeting it hosted regarding the challenges relating to an anticipated shortage of skilled aviation professionals. The article spoke about the Next Generation of Aviation Professionals Taskforce, which consists of 29 representatives from industry, education and training providers, regulatory bodies, and international organizations. The taskforce used a 20-year projection and specifically speaks about the future need for three groups of aviation professionals: aircraft maintenance technicians, air traffic controllers, and pilots. The report says that in the next 20 years the industry will need 480,000 new technicians and more than 350,000 pilots by the year 2026, and that 73 percent of the American air traffic controller population is eligible for retirement between 2005 and 2015.

In addition to the projected growth of the worldwide commercial aircraft fleet over the next 20 years, the report sites that the shortage will be prompted by the “wholesale retirements” yet to take place within the current generation of aviation professionals. The article goes on to highlight a point that I felt important enough to mention and critical to the recruitment of the next generation into aviation as a career. The point being the lack of awareness by the next generation of what types of aviation professions are available to them.

Last month while attending the 2010 Aviation Industry Expo, I couldn’t help thinking about this statement as I watched the AMTSociety Maintenance Skills Competition. The AMTSociety Maintenance Skills Competition is just one attempt at promoting aviation maintenance as a profession, along with generating a whole lot of enthusiasm among a very diverse group of participants. This year for the first time ever, there were two international teams participating in this friendly maintenance skills competition.

I know of aviation professionals who speak highly of the profession and who do their part to attract young people into aviation as a career. I also hear from aviation professionals who feel that aviation as a profession is not a wise choice these days, and would not recommend this career to the next generation. There are pros and cons to everything we do.

I would offer that as part of the current generation of aviation professionals we have some responsibility here, and just as AMTSociety has done, we should consider doing our part to highlight our career in order to attract new people into aviation as a profession. As an individual aviation professional, or an aviation company, are you taking steps to attract the next generation into aviation as a career choice?

Send comments to rdonner@amtonline.com.

Thanks for reading, Ron