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All tooled up

The increasing demand for skilled aircraft maintenance technicians has put the spotlight back on training capabilities. Keith Mwanalushi examines how organisations are averting flying into a skills crisis

The lack of highly technical professionals in the growing aircraft industry creates a huge need for skilled and qualified specialists. For several years the MRO industry has voiced concerns that the pool of maintenance technicians is drying up and not enough students are entering the profession.


“If you ever wanted to become an aircraft technician, now is the time to act, as the career field is looking very bright,” says Scott Steward, Business Development Manager at Snap-on Industrial.


In its 2016 pilot and technician outlook released in July, Boeing projects that 679,000 new commercial airline maintenance technicians will be needed between 2016 and 2035. This represents an 11.3% increase on last year’s forecast.


Vocational training puts competency to the test, but the fact that aviation maintenance engineers gain little real world experience before they are qualified and licensed is of concern. Aircraft engineers arrive on the job with heads full of theory and knowledge, but no practical application in an area where safety is critical.


Clearly the industry is vibrant and can offer great job security and advancement potential to those who are properly trained. “But that’s the key – training,” says Steward.


He adds that many technicians in a variety of industries begin their studies at technical schools or community colleges. “There are several schools in the United States that offer aviation maintenance-focused degrees, and they do a great job providing a valuable service in training the technicians of tomorrow.


“But schools are learning that they don’t have to do it alone. Many institutions are now partnering with the industries they serve to advance their programmes, coming together with a single purpose – to more effectively prepare students for success.” 


Flightline Training Services in Canada has approval to teach type courses on 32 different aircraft from King Airs all the way up to and including the Boeing 777. Flightline has 65 Transport Canada approvals and 22 European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). The company is now expanding into the helicopter industry, offering type training.


“As the aircraft become more technically advanced some of the technicians rely very heavily on the computer systems onboard the aircraft, they are not using their basic troubleshooting skills,” says Phyl Durdey, Chief Executive Officer at Flightline Training Services. “Our training programmes challenge the technicians to hone their skills. We also offer a basic troubleshooting course, which has had great success. One of our customers has put over 200 technicians on this basic course,” he adds.


Companies like Snap-on are creating collaborative programmes with technical schools and community colleges to train and certify students on the proper use of tools and equipment for the aviation industry.


Steward stipulates that the certifications, such as the electrical measurement (multi-meter) and torque (mechanical and electronic), both of which are being offered at Part 147 aircraft maintenance schools, provide conformity and an across-the-board standard for the partnering colleges and schools to teach in-depth instruction on tool use, theory and application.


“These types of partnerships can be an attractive recruiting tool for both schools and students. From the schools’ perspective, they can broaden their programme by leveraging the market knowledge and insights of private industry. Working together, schools can tailor their curriculum to the real world needs of the aviation industry and better prepare students for success when they enter the workforce,” Steward says. >>

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