As airlines around the world work to address the demands of a global economy by expanding fleets and adjusting flight schedules, the industry is also seeking solutions to address the challenges of building a highly-skilled workforce to support the rapid growth.
In its 2015 Pilot and Technical Outlook, Boeing predicts that over the next 20 years, the aviation industry will need to add more than one million new personnel to the industry. According to Boeing, over 60% of those positions will need to be maintenance technicians—the individuals who repair and maintain aircraft and are responsible for inspections mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
The advancements in aviation and manufacturing technologies have resulted in aircraft that are far more reliable and capable of long-lasting operation, but the trends in fleet growth have and will continue to drive demand for more qualified technicians, especially as planes are pushed to their limits to accommodate busy flight schedules and airlines rely on local maintenance and repair operations (MRO).
Like many industries, the need to fill workforce demands in the aerospace sector does not come without challenges. One of the major issues the industry is facing, especially when it comes to maintenance technicians, is an aging workforce. According to some reports, 0.7 people will retire for each new person entering the aviation industry by 2050.
To combat a workforce that does not appear to be on pace to meet future demands, the industry has to rely on resources that can properly attract and train the next generation of maintenance technicians—and do so at a level that ensure that they are skilled and properly qualified to work on today’s high-tech aircraft.
Upstate South Carolina is working to assist in these efforts. The region is home to several technical colleges focused on serving the needs of the industry, including Greenville Technical College.
(Students in Greenville Tech's AMT program gain hands-on experience with working aircraft. Photo credit: Fred Rollison Photography)
Aviation leaders like Lockheed Martin, Honeywell, Stevens Aviation, General Electric, Greenville-Spartanburg Airport, and others depend heavily on Greenville Tech’s Aircraft Maintenance Technology (AMT) program to fill their workforce pipeline. Greenville Tech’s AMT program is a FAA and Veterans Administration-approved associated degree program that provides students with the technical and academic skills necessary to become certified aircraft maintenance technicians.
Working with local aerospace suppliers in the Upstate and global aviation leaders allows Greenville Tech to house an impressive inventory of actual aircraft and related equipment, ensuring students are able to master the skills needed in the modern workforce. Greenville Tech is also working with Clemson University to create an innovative, virtual inspection laboratory, which will provide simulated “hands on” experience in the classroom.
Additionally, Greenville Tech’s partnership with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University gives students who have graduated from the AMT program an opportunity to explore expanded educational opportunities in the field.
Greenville Tech is one of several technical colleges in the region focused on workforce development. These technical colleges work hand-in-hand with affiliate programs like, readySC™, Apprenticeship Carolina™ and QuickJobs Carolina™, so aerospace companies located in the area can take full advantage of the extensive education and training network.
The success of workforce development in the Upstate will get an even bigger boost beginning in 2016. Earlier this year, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley signed a bill into law to eliminate the state sales tax on owner-operator aircraft parts (effective at the beginning of 2016, making South Carolina more attractive for aviation MRO. Now, MRO’s located in South Carolina, including Greenville-based Stevens Aviation, one of the largest MROs in the Southeast, can effectively compete to provide maintenance services for growing industry.
So as the aviation industry continues to take off, so too does Upstate South Carolina’s commitment to ensuring that the sector has an ever-growing labor force—one that will continue to feed the success of businesses throughout the industry.
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