Those working in the aviation industry have known for some time that there is a skills shortage that will soon threaten the viability of the sector’s continuing profitability. The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) predicted that in the next 20 years, airlines would have to add 25,000 aircraft to keep in line with the rising passenger demand for air travel. Yet Boeing anticipates the world will need 679,000 new MRO technicians over the next 20 years.
The number of aviation maintenance workers preparing to retire from the workforce outnumber those preparing to enter it after education or training. Clearly, this is unsustainable, and many are predicting that in the coming decade, we’ll see an industry-wide shortage of talent.
In the US alone, the gap between the demand for qualified engineers and the supply of them is predicted to reach around 9% by 2027. This will likely be worse in other countries where there are fewer engineers. Asia already has a large fleet which will only expand over the next decade. They will almost certainly struggle to meet demand unless additional engineers are brought in from abroad.
The aviation industry has historically been one of the most successful and aspirational fields for engineers, so how did this happen?
Essentially, the global fleet is expanding rapidly on the back of increased passenger demand, driven by competitive airfares and rising living standards. There are fewer engineers entering the industry due to increased awareness of other potential careers, and the engineers that are already working in aviation leave due to increase pressure on them.
Furthermore, the global fleet is becoming increasingly modernised, meaning older engineers must retrain, which they may not be able to afford. The most vital skills for aircraft engineers moving forward are related to composites and avionics.
The sector must focus on retaining existing talent by supporting additional training. It should also be attracting new engineers, graduates, and apprentices by promoting strong career prospects.
However, this isn’t necessarily easy to do, with 51% of MRO technicians claiming that wages and benefits aren’t enough to keep them in the sector. To make matters worse, the Aviation Technician Education Council (ATEC) estimates that 30% of those who finish an aviation maintenance training course end up accepting employment in another industry. This means the already small pipeline of talent coming into the industry is compromised even at the very start of the career path.
It’s clear that the industry as a whole will have to take a new approach to sourcing engineers, and also in the way that they attract engineers to the industry at the very beginning of their careers. Some companies are addressing this through training programmes, ensuring that new engineers have the skills they need, others are bringing in new incentives and reward schemes that recognise long-term workers.
These engineers are crucial to keeping planes flying, and recognising that they’re worth keeping as permanent staff will help keep them in the industry.
Governments should encourage and incentivise aviation engineering to students and those still at school. In the UK, apprenticeships have been steadily growing in popularity for years, but more could be done to promote them as a valid and rewarding alternative to university education.
The aviation industry is hugely important to the UK economy, and to economies all around the world. Governments must realise that they could help drive more interest into the sector at relatively little cost. This would be beneficial in the long-term, as the sector could continue to expand as long as it is supported by qualified and engaged engineers.
While aviation is an inherently international industry, having workers from around the world is only possible if a culture of engineering excellence has been fostered by multiple governments.
It goes without saying that more has to be done at every level to encourage women into engineering, as engineering is still seen as a male-dominated industry. If there were an equivalent number of women embarking on a career in engineering as men, it would likely be enough to solve the skills shortage. Diversity should be taken seriously, as it makes the industry stronger, more capable, and allows for more expansive and comprehensive growth.
Many companies expect their search for aviation engineers and technicians will get harder over the next few years.
VHR are aviation engineering recruitment specialists, and have been operating for over sixteen years, supplying world leading airlines, MROs, and the aviation supply chain. We recruit candidates from all over the world, and can help them make the transition to other countries, cultures, and working environments. We focus on quality, ensuring that we find the very best engineers for whatever the role entails.
We recruit both contract and permanent workers, so get in touch with us today to find aviation engineers today.
In addition to the Covid-19 pandemic and rapid increase in demand for leisure and business flights over the past decade,...Read full blog