MRO's Workforce Pipeline Efforts Ramp Up For 2023

Credit: Austrian Airlines

MRO providers are accelerating technician recruiting efforts as demand is expected to grow in the new year for aviation maintenance workforce.

Austrian Technik is currently recruiting 24 new mechatronics apprentices, which it plans to begin training in autumn of this year. The 3.5-year-long training will be carried out at the MRO’s apprentice workshop at Vienna Airport. In addition to practical on-the-job training in both specialist workshops and aircraft maintenance, apprentices will also receive subject-specific Category A training and theoretical training.

Expanding Irish MRO Dublin Aerospace is also launching new efforts to hire new staff. In late November it launched a new recruitment drive, through which it hopes to hire 106 new staff at its base maintenance facility at Dublin Airport and its landing gear facility in Ashbourne. As part of these efforts, it raised staff pay by 19% in 2022 and it plans to further increase pay by 6% this year.

Across the pond, MROs and operators in the U.S. are ramping up training efforts and partnerships. Regional carrier Piedmont Airlines announced in late December that it is partnering with the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) and local government agencies to establish an aircraft maintenance technician (AMT) certification program. The program will be managed and operated by UMES’s School of Aviation Sciences and housed in part of Piedmont’s current space at the Salisbury Regional Airport, where the airline is headquartered.

“Sharing facilities and assisting with the startup of the new AMT school will ultimately strengthen our ability to sustain jobs and grow our operation here in Salisbury,” says Piedmont Airlines CEO Eric Morgan.

The airline is already heavily involved with other local AMT schools as part of its workforce pipeline efforts, including development of AMT programs through mentorship and advisory roles, holding career fairs and donating aircraft engines. It also offers an AMT Tuition Payment Program, which covers tuition and fees for selected candidates at its partner schools and provides a conditional offer of employment at the airline.

According to a representative for Piedmont, the airline hopes to meet its growing workforce demands by maintaining a pipeline of 30-60 students annually in its AMT Tuition Payment Program. It expects to hire hundreds of new AMTs in the next few years at its various locations, focusing on Salisbury; Albany, New York; and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Also partnered with AMT schools in the U.S. is FEAM Aero, which launched a new workforce pipeline program with Epic Flight Academy in early 2022. In mid-December, it partnered with the Aviation Institute of Maintenance (AIM) and the Trades Workforce Foundation to begin awarding scholarships that will support students enrolled in career and technical education institutions.

FEAM says the aim of the scholarship program is to increase awareness of aviation technical careers, ease students’ financial burden and further develop a future workforce pipeline.

According to Wayne Sisson, FEAM’s chief operating officer, AIM is an ideal partner for this venture due to its large presence, which includes 14 campuses across the U.S. “The Charlotte campus graduated their first A&Ps [Airframe & Powerplant licensed technicians] in 2021, and FEAM has been fortunate enough to hire 20% of their A&P graduates to date,” he adds. “It is exciting to be a part of helping new technicians get started in the industry, and watch them gain both experience and capability.”

Private aviation is also ramping up recruitment efforts. In early December, Flexjet graduated its first class of A&P apprentices. The 10 graduates completed 30 months of paid, on-the-job training before obtaining their FAA-issued A&P licenses and full-time employment offers from Flexjet.

According to Jay Heublein, Flexjet’s senior vice president of maintenance, the company’s apprentice program allows apprentices to avoid the expenses associated with typical Part 147 schools or four-year colleges while training alongside Flexjet’s maintenance technicians.

“In addition to their technical development, they are exposed early on to our culture of safety and professionalism that is difficult to teach in a traditional classroom environment,” says Heublein. “We see this program as the right solution at the right time for many people contemplating their potential career paths.”

Flexjet plans to hire more than 100 additional A&Ps in the next 12 months. It will begin training its next class of apprentices this month.

Boeing’s 2022 Pilot and Technician Outlook forecasts that the industry will need 610,000 new maintenance technicians through 2041. It expects 134,000 new technicians will be needed in North America and 120,000 new technicians will be needed in Europe.

The Aviation Technician Education Council’s 2022 Pipeline Report projects that the mechanic pipeline in the U.S. will need to increase production by at least 20% to meet projected workforce demand. The report notes that between October 2021-October 2022, major airlines hired a quarter of all A&P graduates, which is putting more pressure on repair stations and regional carriers.

Lindsay Bjerregaard

Lindsay Bjerregaard is managing editor for Aviation Week’s MRO portfolio. Her coverage focuses on MRO technology, workforce, and product and service news for, Aviation Week Marketplace and Inside MRO.