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A shortage of new entrants into the MRO industry, especially young people, is a widespread problem. Mario Pierobon spoke to experts in Europe, the UK, and the US

The fact that the MRO industry is experiencing a skilled labour shortage is one of the challenges that comes with the industry’s growth, and is coupled with demographic factors. Members of the Aeronautical Repair Station Association (ARSA) have reported for years – both anecdotally and through the association’s annual member survey – that they have difficulty finding qualified technicians.


Brett Levanto, Vice President of Communications at ARSA, affirms this: “In our most recent survey, respondents ranked ‘difficulty finding technical talent’ as one of the two most pressing issues facing their business. Based on some revenue data we put together, the number of vacant positions in the industry could represent nearly $2 billion in lost revenue. The main problem is lack of supply in the workforce. Finding candidates with the right skills – which could mean any kind of technician, not just certified mechanics – is getting difficult. Moreover, the problem cuts across every industry and is not confined to aviation. Essentially, repair stations are competing with every other hands-on, technically involved, engineering-focused discipline for the attention of job seekers.”


Skilled labour shortage


Andy Lowi, Business Development Manager at Monarch Aircraft Engineering, says the shortage of skilled labour in the industry is common knowledge: “This can be attributed to a few factors around the perception of engineering to the next generation. As the global fleet of aircraft expands, the entry of engineers into industry is not growing at the same rate, and this is why it is even more important to encourage young people to think about joining an apprenticeship programme.”


According to Lufthansa Technik, the situation is caused mainly by demographic issues. “You can see this in the ageing of the maintenance personnel. Changes in pension policies that are being brought about by governments are leading to a higher rate of retirements. The problem is worsened by the anticipated growth in airline fleets, because this has more effect than simplifications and technological improvements concerning maintenance intervals and volumes,” says a spokesperson from Lufthansa.


The skill shortage in the MRO industry, in particular in Europe and the US, is also a consequence of inadequate investments by MRO companies in apprenticeships and training. “Following 9/11 there was a wholesale cutback in non-core activities by MROs, including training, and once these basic training establishments were dismantled they were hard to reinstate,” says Adrian Leatherland, Group Business Development Manager at Qualitair. “The pressure on costs by low cost carriers, and the pressure on airline margins in general, have been passed on to MROs withconsequent pressure on their profit margins. This leaves little cash for investment in training. Also, pay rates in MROs are consequently reduced, making a career in MRO less attractive to young people.”


According to Leatherland, another factor is the reduction of skilled individuals leaving the military due to the shrinkage of air forces and a reduction of training being undertaken by military forces; increasingly military maintenance is being outsourced to original equipment manufacturers. “In addition, until recently technical education systems in many countries have not been compatible with applicable regulatory requirements, such as EASA. Therefore, there has been no clear pathway within these education systems for trainees to map their entry to the industry,” he says. >>


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