Because of specialized training, personal skill and other important qualities, a solid, experienced GSE technician is a rare commodity.
In this issue, we’d like to discuss a valuable asset of the GSE industry – the skilled GSE technician.
Without a well-trained GSE technician your equipment may not start, but your problems sure do.
These days ground support equipment can be complex and challenging to maintain. It takes quality training and years of hands-on experience to become proficient enough to handle most specialized GSE situations. At the same time, the technician has to be a jack-of-all-trades, always ready to work with gas and diesel engines, hydraulics, electronics, air-conditioning, brake systems and even facility maintenance in some cases.
Our business primarily relies on all sorts of different kinds of equipment your employees operate to service your customers. And the qualified GSE technicians who are trained to keep all that equipment running in top shop are just as much a part of customer service.
So where do you find a qualified GSE technician? It’s not like there are many technical schools specifically for GSE maintenance. And even if someone graduates from a general automotive technical school, additional course development studies must be completed before the graduate can be certified as a journeyman GSE technician.
Here are a few time-tested places to find your next GSE technician:
Military: One long-lasting way is through the United States military. Serving in the armed forces usually involves taking lengthy technical courses that teach everything from basic electronics to gas turbine engine maintenance. Candidates learn skills through many different blocks of study, which includes testing before an individual can advance to the next level.
Transfers: Another common way is for someone to transfer to GSE maintenance from another field. They could come from the automotive, construction, industrial or even assembly plant maintenance fields. It takes some hands-on time to learn the ins and outs of GSE maintenance, of course, since there are different systems to learn, as well as just as many different makes, models and types of GSE. Plus, working in an airport environment is a whole other challenge. But often times, people moving from one mechanical specialty to another are already highly skilled and possess valuable training.
Classifieds: A help wanted ad in Ground Support Worldwide is another good place to try. Usually, when an ad is placed in a local paper for an experienced GSE technician, many callers will ask “What’s a GSE?” That is, if you even receive a response at all! We’ve also had good results with the local airport newspaper classifieds.
Keep in mind, however, that there are only so many GSE technicians in your area. This means that whomever you hire is liable to come from one of your competitors at your very airport. The ground support business is definitely a small world, with people knowing each other, sometimes over great distances, without ever personally meeting.
All this is a good thing, however, since it goes without saying that a good reputation goes a long way in such a small world. A good technician will go the extra mile to perform quality maintenance, be dependable and strive to provide a positive role model to the young guys coming up in the business.
You’ll know if the technician is quick-witted, dependable, physically fit and able to handle pressure well. You’ll hear through the grape vine if the technician possess the knowledge to work with a wide assortment of quality hand, power, and air tools. You’ll know if the technician is tough enough to handle the outdoor extremes that your local environment throws their way.
Hire A Helper: One method we’ve used is to hire a mechanic’s helper. This is usually a younger person with a natural mechanical aptitude who is interested in learning a specialty craft such as GSE maintenance.
We have them start on repairing dollies and performing minor work, such as changing oil and repairing lights, seats and hitches.
This way we can see if our new helper shows a real interest in the job before we take up everyone’s time to train a helper to become a real mechanic. Of course, this only works if you possess an experienced technician that can ultimately train and mentor such a person.
But by training such a rookie, you eventually produce a GSE technician from an area that had none to spare. An upside to this is a person can be trained almost from scratch to your liking, without any of the bad habits that could accompany an already trained person.
Look at it this way: You will be providing an avenue for one more person to enter our community – and we find that pretty valuable.
Once you’ve made a hiring decision, keep in mind one thing that is extremely helpful to all GSE mechanics no matter their background. High-quality education offered by some manufacturers, TLD and JBT Aerotech to name only a couple, provide excellent training for their equipment free of charge.
Believe me, these schools are a must for a company that wants its technicians to operate at a higher level. Because of all this specialized training, personal skill and other important qualities, a solid, experienced GSE technician is a rare commodity. This market is tough and very competitive. You always need to keep the well-trained GSE technician on your team.
Kenneth DeVolpi, manager of sales and marketing and special projects manager, has worked for Matheson for more than three years and has been in the aviation industry for more than 20 years, including 15 years with Northwest Airlines. Jason Chapman works in the company’s GSE maintenance department and gained GSE mechanical experience with the U.S. Air Force and has worked in the commercial GSE industry for 12 years.