Instructor Shortage Complicates MRO Workforce Woes

Credit: Antony Souter/Alamy Stock Photo

The aviation industry has launched plenty of initiatives in recent years to boost the pipeline of future aviation maintenance technicians, but even if these efforts succeed in growing the number of students pursuing their airframe and powerplant certificates, another hurdle remains: finding enough qualified instructors to train them.

According to the Aviation Technician Education Council (ATEC), the results of its recent member surveys show that one of the largest barriers Part 147 schools in the U.S. face is availability of instructors.

“It’s been a known problem for a long time. The industry doesn’t really have a good pipeline of instructors,” says ATEC President James Hall. He notes that most instructors at airframe and powerplant (A&P) schools come from industry first but struggle to translate that experience to the classroom.

“We want to bridge the gap between people coming from industry into education,” says Hall. “They have a ton of knowledge, but learning how to share that knowledge under tried-and-true education methods is a bit of a different idea. It’s sort of like a military Skillbridge program, going from one type of career to another.”

To tackle the issue, ATEC is launching a new ATEC Academy initiative, through which professionals transitioning from the aviation industry to A&P schools will receive training in areas such as active teaching strategies, lesson planning, student behavior management, assessment and evaluation methods. The training also will include a focus on teaching technology and trends in higher education.

The inaugural three-month course will be a hybrid model, beginning with in-person training in conjunction with the ATEC Annual Conference in March, before transitioning to a virtual environment.

According to Crystal Maguire, executive director of ATEC, participants will learn from master instructors with decades of teaching experience. She adds that the inaugural class will serve as a pilot to gauge industry demand and success.

Maguire also notes that interest in ATEC Academy goes beyond people looking to transition to roles at A&P schools. She says staff in charge of internal training programs at MRO companies also have registered for the course.

This interest may not be surprising considering recent workforce and training trends. According to AAR’s 2023 Mid Skills Gap Report, major airlines have become the fastest growing employer of new mechanics. The report says major airlines are beginning to hire and train mechanics right out of school rather than following the typical progression in which new A&P graduates first work at a repair station to hone their skills before moving on to airlines.

Meanwhile, industry experts have recently highlighted significant issues with retention after companies invest time, effort and resources in training new hires. Jonas Murby, a principal at consultancy AeroDynamic Advisory, says one European airline told him they lose 80% of their technicians in training. HAECO Americas President Bill Collins reported at MRO Americas last year that attrition in staff with less than a year of experience was “exceptionally high,” estimating it had grown by 40% compared to the attrition rate in 2022. “It’s a huge expense to recruit people and then provide the training all the way through A&P or working certificate,” he stressed.

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.