If the Part 145 repair station tactical hiring plan’s goal is to hire bodies for the short term, then the company’s strategic plan should be a long-term, well-thought-out plan to create the best aviation maintenance work force in the industry.
First, let me share some private thoughts on some company management as seen through the eyes of mechanics for your consideration and evaluation. The following might be a painful but necessary read.
First of all, unlike 30 years ago, many large repair stations and airlines senior management types are now seen as short timers by those who earn their living in the hangar. Many managers have not grown up in aviation and rarely last more than five years because they are constantly looking for a bigger golden parachute. It is hard for the guy in the hangar to give the current company managers their loyalty when the guy in charge is seen as a caretaker, not as a leader.
Secondly, many senior managers have to change their perception of mechanics. In my other career I have talked to many CEOs and vice presidents of large repair stations. I noticed that some, but not all, see mechanics and technicians as an expense and not as capital investments. In reality, it is the mechanics who are the income producers for the repair station and management is the overhead.
Thirdly, the company’s philosophy regarding both management and employees needs to change. Perhaps the best solution to the first and second items is to promote from within. It’s an old idea but it works. It produces both a stable work force and stable management. Plus, if today’s new hire can readily see that there is a chance to run the show in 20 plus years you have a motivated work force. The only drawback is it takes time, at least 10 years or more to become reality.
Before we get into developing a strategic hiring plan, it is vital that your target hiring standards and employee profile must be high. Do not settle for second best or even third best — Microsoft doesn’t and neither does IBM. You need to hire the absolute best people available. You will need to train them to develop skill sets the industry and your company demand. Why? Because aviation safety is not tolerant of a second-best work force. Aviation maintenance has always demanded excellence and so should you.
How to develop a strategic plan
Make the strategic hiring plan a player. The strategic hiring plan has to be a major part of the company’s business plan. While it is a five-year plan, it must be reviewed at least once a year and revised to ensure that it stays on target. Don’t forget to consider the age of your work force and try to forecast retirements or company growth at least two to five years ahead of time.
Budget. The strategic hiring plan must have an adequate budget and it must be stashed in one of the company’s pockets that won’t be picked when times are bad.
Hiring the right people. Your long-term goal is to hire “good employees,” not skilled employees. This sounds a little strange at first but a good employee can be trained to develop the skills you want. Not all skilled employees are good employees. Develop a profile of your “good” employee and use that as a hiring guide.
Math and reading skills test. At the very least, each new potential employee should pass a test in reading and writing skills. Why? The airplanes of the 21st century are more complex.
Maintenance manuals, work cards, and ADs will become more complex even though the manufacturers try to dumb down manuals a bit. If you hire employees with at least a Grade 10 mastery of English and math, this will reduce common human factors problems that plague many repair stations today.
Be your own gardener. You have to develop the art of growing your own mechanic work force right in your own backyard. You can start by offering junior/seniors in local trade schools a tour of your facilities. I would also offer the local Part 147 schools a similar deal. In addition, I would follow up with an offer of summer 30-day internships for at least two or three outstanding students who show interest in aviation. You have to plant seeds to raise a bumper crop.
How to get the experience you need
How students from Minnesota’s NCTC pulled themselves up and refused to accept closure of their school.