Air Transport Publications
Login   |   Register
jobs Jobs
events Events
My bookmarks

No magic answer

With the MRO industry facing labour shortages, recruiting young people is becoming ever more important but, says George Marsh, some obstacles still block the way

In a number of countries, particularly the UK, there has been a tendency to regard further education by apprenticeship as somehow inferior to university degree routes to engineering qualification. However, as senior line and base MRO practitioners will attest, when it comes to practical hands-on work on aircraft, apprentice-trained technicians and engineers are highly prized. 


Apprenticeships have many advantages; affording the apprentices the chance to sidestep the financial hurdle of funding expensive university education, and in some cases to earn while they learn. More practical programmes may see them hone hand-and-eye skills on real aircraft and systems – not just simulators – faster than might otherwise be the case. Similarly, in a good scheme, they are likely to be integrated into the MRO operational environment at an earlier stage. 


Many employers in the MRO sector recognise the benefits of an apprentice-trained technician who will be able to hit the ground running, whereas this is not always the case with a university graduate (who may shine in other operational roles). Supervisors welcome the fact that, by the time they qualify, apprentice-trained technicians are already familiar with shop floor practices and routines and need little further induction. Recruiters are hopeful that the allure of starting one’s professional life in financial credit rather than impoverished by debt will tempt much-needed entrants into the field.


Training their own

Given the diminishing supply from traditional sources such as the military, airlines are increasingly having to train their own engineers, just as with pilots. Some are seizing the opportunity to make what would otherwise be a cost centre into a profit centre (or at least a financial contributor) by undertaking third-party training as well. One such opportunist is the UK regional airline Flybe. Although the Flybe Training Academy, an EASA Part 147 approved training organisation, was not immune from the job cuts which the airline was subjected to some three years ago, it has maintained an engineer training programme to diploma level. This features at least six months experience on live aircraft in the airline's maintenance hangars, while theoretical study takes place within the Academy’s facilities at Exeter Airport, along with academic foundations laid down at Exeter College. (Courses run by Exeter College in partnership with Flybe need to be applied for and require student funding, usually via a loan.)


This September, Flybe is launching a true apprenticeship scheme which, while similar to a four-year programme, will be rather more hands-on and will provide a highly practical route to an engineering qualification. Moreover, apprentices will be paid a wage while they work and learn. Recruiting is currently taking place with the closing date for this year set for 2 June.


Recruits should be young people aged 16-plus who are predicted to achieve four GCSEs at Grade A to C in Maths, English and Science plus, ideally, one practical subject. They must be passionate about their chosen field of work, hold a valid UK/EU passport and have the right to live and work in the UK. Short-listed applicants will be invited for interview.


During their training, apprentices will be exposed to aircraft types which Flybe has operating and/or MRO experience with, including Embraer ERJ 135/145 and BAe146 jets, as well as Bombardier Q400 and ATR42/72 turboprops.


Third-party training undertaken by the company is aimed mainly at already licensed engineers and ranges from courses on specific aircraft types to the Engineering Diploma. They include B1/B2 combined type rating courses, structural repair programmes and various other engineering courses. British Airways (BA), too, is known for its apprenticeship schemes, including an Aircraft Maintenance Programme, and takes some 120 apprentices every year. At the end of the three-year programme and assuming that they are given the Deeds that successful candidates have earned during their time, they may be brought onto the airline’s payroll as fully-qualified Aircraft Maintenance Technicians/Fitters. 


Competition to join the BA apprenticeship scheme is fierce. The airline is in search of candidates who are passionate about engineering, are confident communicators, and have at least five GCSE passes, with high grades in both English and Maths. BA places great value on adaptability, initiative, self-motivation and the ability to accommodate change. 


After their first year on the programme, which is full-time, college-based, and leads to a Level 2 Diploma in Aerospace and Aviation Engineering, aviation maintenance apprentices work with engineering teams, learning ‘on the job’ as they rotate through the various departments and aircraft types. There are further periods of college learning on day-release. 


Trainees have the opportunity to carry out maintenance tasks on real aircraft, albeit under close engineering supervision, avoiding excessive reliance on simulators in classroom environments. >>

To download the PDF file for this article, you have to pay the amount by pressing the PayPal button below!

Filename: No magic answer.pdf
Price: £10

Contact our team for more information!


You must be logged in to post a comment.

Please login or sign up for a free account.

Disclaimer text: The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily express the views of Air Transport Publications Ltd. or any of its publications.