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‘Help In The Hangar:’ Tackling The Aircraft Maintenance Engineers Shortage In Canada

Published Sunday, August 25, 2019
by Lisa Gordon/Skies Magazine
‘Help In The Hangar:’ Tackling The Aircraft Maintenance Engineers Shortage In Canada

Despite the ever-increasing demand for air travel and its collision course with a severe global Pilot shortage, there is one simple fact: Airplanes won’t be going anywhere if there are no Aircraft Maintenance Engineers (AMEs) to fix them.

In March 2018, the Canadian Council for Aviation and Aerospace anticipated that by 2025, Canada will need about 5,300 new AMEs to keep pace with industry growth and retirements.  And, according to the 2019 Boeing Pilot & Technician Outlook, a whopping 769,000 new Maintenance Technicians will be needed to maintain the world fleet over the next two decades.

Canadian colleges graduate about 600 Maintenance Technicians per year, according to the CCAA, yet only about 77% go on to work in the industry.

More than 25% of companies surveyed for the 2018 report said they were having difficulty filling aircraft maintenance positions, especially those related to specialty areas such as structures and avionics.

There’s no denying the shortfall that is already being felt in hangars and shops across Canada – and it’s only going to get worse.

According to Transport Canada data provided to Skies, there were 17,662 active AME license holders living in Canada as of June 26th, 2019.

Half of them (8,762) are currently above age 50.

Of those, just over 50% is actually above age 60.

Think about that for a second: Half of Canada’s existing AMEs are at or near retirement age!

The situation is dire in other countries, too.

Therefore, a new crop of AMEs is needed, those equipped with next generation skills such as composites repair and digital troubleshooting.

At the same time, older aircraft will continue to fly, and so-called legacy skillsets will still be in demand.

The solutions to the AME labor shortage aren’t easy or obvious.

Fixing the issue will take a concerted team effort from industry, academia and Transport Canada, which regulates AME licensing.

The CCAA Labor Market Study notes that students are increasingly benefitting from Work-Integrated Learning (WIL) Programs, which include co-ops and internships.

Through a $4.8 million grant obtained from Employment Social Development Canada (ESDC) in 2017, CCAA is working to create more than 1,000 student WIL placements for post-secondary students through 2021.

Employers offering eligible programs to approved post-secondary education students receive wage subsidies equal to 50% to 70% of the wage cost.

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