"When you look at the typical four- to five-week course, there is a lot of minutia, that really doesn't - I think - need to be taught in the depth they're attempting to teach it.
"The course length and the course content tie together. When you look at the course content, which really talks to the minutia, if you focus your training on the things that will be directly applicable when you get back to the hangar, I believe in my heart of hearts you can trim those four- to five-week courses down to two weeks, maybe a couple of days more than two weeks. Certainly you can shave them quite a bit, and then when you do go back for training you can hit completely different areas like troubleshooting, areas of maintenance that really aren't covered very well or not at all in the training program such as non-destructive testing, corrosion control, those types of things," said West.
A greater selection of knowledge and skill courses need to be offered to allow for specialization and career growth of technicians.
"Because most of what a lot of people do in aviation are very isolated tasks or a group of tasks in an isolated area, technicians have a tendency to think that they have become limited in their ability to move. They don't look at the industry as being a career organization," commented Leonard Beauchemin of Eastman Kodak Co. and vice chairman of the NBAA Maintenance Committee.
He continued, "Let's look at the entire industry as an organization, then I can say I have career opportunities because then I can move into marketing, and I can move into sales, and I can move into field service, and I can move into product design or engineering.
"To move into any of those other fields — you need certain skills." Negotiating, interactive skills, presentation/communication skills, and coaching skills are skill sets needed to advance in the aviation industry.
"That's the kind of training that I say is missing," said Beauchemin.
And if a company doubts the benefits of communication training for its technicians, Beauchemin says to consider this:
"Technicians do contribute to the growth of a business because any communication you allow a technician to have outside of your organization can either contribute to your business or detract from it."
When questioned about whether general business classes should be included in a technician's training, Beauchemin says, "Absolutely. My guys spend more money than anything. What's the single largest controllable cost in a flight department? Maintenance. You live and die by it. It's a controllable expense.
"If the airplane comes back at 10 o'clock at night and it's broken and needs a part, my people have to buy parts. That means they have to pick up the telephone and they have to start asking questions. You don't want to pay the most. They call and they negotiate. You can't be belligerent. You have to be tactful enough to ensure they're not leading you down the garden path. You have to have some basic business understanding. There are modules of business education that I think are key to technician development."
Course development, the Maintenance Committee notes, should be designed to meet the needs of daily operations, inspections, technician progression, and information-data management.
A more hands-on approach combined with an appropriate class size for hands-on training would achieve this goal. Also, using the maintenance manual as the principle reference when developing the course would make each course more valuable to the technician and more "life-like."
Aircraft maintenance manuals are the only legal source of information in the field, so why are they not the only "textbook" in training?
"Typically, the manuals, the way they're written and laid out are not conducive to the learning environment," says West. "All I've got to work with in the field is the maintenance manual. I can't legally use the training manual. You can't go back to your notes because they're illegal."
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