Over the years and decades most of us have heard the prediction, there’s an aircraft mechanic shortage coming. Yet the industry seems to get by and this wholesale shortage of AMTs, at least here in North America has not yet occurred. One can speculate any number of factors contribute to this shortage not yet occurring; the cyclic nature of the industry; recently the global economic recession; mergers and acquisitions; displaced AMTs taking jobs in different segments of aviation. One can also speculate that these same factors apply to many legacy industries not only aviation, careers once viewed as stable with low-turnover. So when will the prediction of an AMT shortage become reality? Some information predicts it’s finally approaching or already here.
Let’s begin with some demographic information taken from a recent AMT readership survey with responses from various segments of aviation; airline maintenance, general aviation maintenance, business aircraft maintenance, and the maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) and repair station segments. One question on the survey was short and simple, “What is your age group?” For those of us on the far right side of the chart (purple and turquoise bars) this is probably no surprise. See Figure 1 above.
What factors account for the small numbers on the left side of the chart? Granted this is only one small sampling and does not represent the ages of all AMTs today, but it does prompt a few questions. Are there currently no aircraft maintenance jobs for young people? Or does this suggest that aircraft maintenance is not a desired career choice today?
Many people beginning their career journey have probably witnessed family members or friends becoming unemployed due to company downsizing, lack of business, airline mergers, other corporate decisions out of their control, or people who have moved into careers other than aviation. We have also heard negative (and I feel unfortunate) comments from our peers such as, why would I tell my kids to work in aviation? There are competing career choices, many with promise of better pay, benefits, or job security. Valid reasons for young people to be cautious when considering an aviation career.
Using the industry data available
There is no crystal ball we can gaze into that will show the better career choice, but we can learn and understand as much about the aviation industry as possible. Industry analysis, forecasts, reports, trends, opinions, and news are available, and a search of the internet will result in piles of data that can be used in making educated career decisions. Much of today’s data suggests there is a future in choosing an aviation career. However, it will not be the same experience as those of us on the right side of the demographic chart.
To provide some framework on the aircraft maintenance industry, I visited the Aeronautical Repair Station Association (ARSA) website. In August 2009 ARSA published a report titled Global MRO Market Economic Assessment, which was prepared by AeroStrategy for ARSA. The conclusion provides some scale of the current MRO and repair station segment. Paraphrased the report says there are approximately 480,000 employees within more than 4,800 firms worldwide participating in the civil MRO supply chain. Nearly 80 percent of these firms are small to medium size companies.
Globally, there are more than 290,000 technicians; 24 percent of which are FAA-certificated. In the United States, there are 4,200 firms with more than 200,000 employees. Small to medium size companies make up 85 percent and account for 21 percent of all employees. There are more than 145,000 technicians in the United States and approximately half are FAA-certificated. These repair stations include all segments of aviation and all types of aircraft maintenance services.
Aircraft delivery forecasts as an indicator
It predicts the Asia Pacific region will require hundreds of thousands of new commercial airline pilots and maintenance technicians over the next 20 years to support airline fleet modernization.
European social perspectives recognize the value of business aviation rather than seeing it as a luxury.
More than 100 years later; what would Charles Taylor say?