He continues, "So what we're (NBAA Maintenance Committee) trying to do is get the manufacturers to understand that they must write the maintenance manuals in such a way that they are conducive to training because the training school is not the only time a mechanic has to train. They have to train themselves when they don't do a particular thing for a period of time. So what are they going to do? Are they going to run back to school again? They have to open up this manual and they have to fight their way through it."
With a lack of regulations spelling out the qualifications of instructors, it is up to training companies to determine who is qualified to teach and who is not. These instructors may know this information like the back of their hands, but can they effectively communicate that information to the class?
"We've got a specification provided by ATA. They put out a specification for training, but it's hardly detailed. There is no association that digs deeper and helps teachers to put that into a tangible product," says West.
He continues, "The other problem is that there are no qualifications, no formal qualifications for a maintenance instructor. So they don't, in fact I don't know any that do, have any formal education in the field of education. So just simply knowing the subject material doesn't mean that you can communicate that information effectively. That's a big problem."
West adds, "We're trying to encourage the training companies to teach their instructors how to instruct. When they're interviewing an instructor, they'll put this instructor in front of a class with representatives from the company and critique the person's performance, but what's the credentials of the critiquers?"
FlightSafety believes, also, that in order to be a successful training company, instructors must be highly qualified.
"I think it's a fair statement that (instructor qualifications) used to be a problem. Our current requirements for instructors are 10 years of industry experience, five years of heavy jet, and two years of training. The coming-in standards have been raised, and it's harder to get to be an instructor today than it used to be (at FlightSafety)," Lee points out.
"The purpose of knowledge testing," West claims, "is to find out where someone is strong and weak -Ênot so you can punish a person; it's so you can retrain or focus training more in that area. The goal is to have this person retain and understand that information. You can't fix it if you don't know what's broke - it doesn't make a difference if it's a technician or an airplane."
FlightSafety, Lee explains, requires students obtain the same minimum that has been established by the FAA: 70 percent.
"If they've been participating in our master technician program, which we encourage everybody to to do, that's the step up, and they have to complete all levels of the training at 90 percent."
"Once again," Lee explains, "we raised the mark. We have to have (stringent standards). It's the only way to move everybody up, raise the level of professionalism."
Currently, most training schools require student technicians fill out a course critique form at the end of a class. It's the last thing they do before they're "out of there," so there is a bit of uncertainty about how truthfully, completely, and critically these forms are filled out.
"Most people are looking to get out of there after four weeks, and 'Yeah, yeah, everything's great, goodbye.' That's not good enough if you're trying to find the problem. You need to sit down and debrief. You need to ask strategic questions. Sometimes you have to ask the question three times but in different ways. And you need to be in a position where you can challenge the answer," West believes.
FlightSafety, realizing the need for more in-depth critiques, telephones a sample population of their students for follow-up interviews. This analysis helps the training company fill its students' needs more efficiently.
After the forum
"Each one of the vendors goes away and tries to implement certain things, but I think they're in a quandary right now as to how to fix it. We didn't basically get them in a room, use harsh language with them and say fix it and walk away. What we've done is we've created a kind of partnership," West said of the forum's impact on maintenance training in the aviation industry.
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