The aviation industry is not alone in facing workforce challenges. What solutions have other business sectors developed?
Jan 7, 2019
Ten years ago, the world economy was reeling. Today, the economic news is largely positive – stock markets are near all-time highs, and the US unemployment rate is lower than it has been in a generation. Yet millions of jobs across a range of industries go unfilled due to a lack of skilled candidates.
- In the US, there will be a shortfall of up to 105,000 physicians within the next several years, according to Dr. Janis Orlowski, chief healthcare officer for the Association of American Medical Colleges.
- The talent deficit in financial and business services may reach three million people in the next two years.
- The oil and gas industry, which had shed more than 400,000 jobs only three years ago, now has “full employment” in growth regions like the Permian Basin and faces talent gaps in such skills as software engineering and data analysis.
- The lack of qualified people in the information technology disciplines of artificial intelligence and cybersecurity is described as “staggering.”
A key part of the problem for all industries over the next two decades is that 10,000 Baby Boomers will reach retirement age every day, according to the Korn Ferry Institute, which conducts research and identifies trends in leadership and human performance. By 2030, the global talent shortage could reach 85.2 million people.
The aviation industry’s current shortage of pilots and maintenance technicians is only expected to get worse in the coming years with the expected doubling of commercial aviation worldwide during the next two decades. Boeing’s 2018 personnel forecast estimates a need for 635,000 airline pilots, 96,000 business aviators and 59,000 civil helicopter pilots over the next 20 years. The forecast also says 622,000 maintenance technicians will be needed in commercial aviation, 89,000 in business aviation and 43,000 in the rotorcraft sector. How will aviation fill these jobs?
TALENT PIPELINE MANAGEMENT INITIATIVES
The combination of generational change in the workforce and the technological revolution is conspiring to exacerbate the skills gap, and employers in aviation and other industries are experimenting with myriad approaches to attract and retain Millennial and Gen Z candidates.
In Kentucky, manufacturing talent pools were beginning to shrink several years ago, jeopardizing Toyota’s production in its Georgetown plant.
The company partnered with Bluegrass Community and Technical College to develop the Advanced Manufacturing Technician Program, an apprenticeship-style initiative that teaches both the technology and soft skills required for the collaborative working environment. Organizations around the state now sponsor students at local facilities, including paying competitive wages to help them graduate debt-free.
The Toyota case study is part of the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Talent Pipeline Management (TPM)™ initiative, which seeks ways to better connect the education experience to the jobs that are available.
“We take supply chain management principles and flip them on their head,” said Jaimie Francis, director of programs and operations at the foundation’s Center for Education and Workforce. “We created a set of strategies to serve as an employer playbook, encouraging businesses to play the ‘end customer’ role in a talent supply chain.
“A group of employers come together, discuss their major hiring issues, their critical occupations and the requirements associated with those positions,” explained Francis. “The employers work with education and workforce training partners in a collaborative manner to better understand how they can make sure that all the student experiences preparing for the world of work will result in a quality career pathway,” she added.
Francis said the initiative has extended to a national learning network of 140 communities, driven by a TPM Academy™ for sharing best practices. Topics include demand planning, competencies and credentialing, and talent flow analysis.
“It requires a willingness for employers to come together, to share data, to impact the long term,” Francis emphasized. “It’s a collective benefit.”
ADOPTING SUCCESSFUL TECHNIQUES FROM OTHER INDUSTRIES
In the energy sector, more than 50 percent of workers will be eligible to retire in the next 10 years. To address this anticipated worker shortfall, Francis said Detroit, MI-based DTE Energy, using the TPM™ framework, pulled together stakeholders from industry, government and education to launch programs such as high school internships and a “Power and Trades Pathway” skilled trades training program with nearby Henry Ford College. By identifying qualification similarities, educators were able to develop a curriculum tailored to energy employers.
In New York, high-speed rail manufacturer Alstom has partnered with nearby Alfred University and Rochester Institute of Technology to develop internship and co-op experiences. For entry-level professionals, the company’s Leadership Excellence and Development (LEAD) program rotates employees through different areas of the business.
Boeing, facing a similar aging workforce challenge, developed the Aerospace Partners for the Advancement of Collaborative Engineering (AerosPACE) at four university campuses. The objective is to equip students for entry-level aerospace jobs. One project, for example, is to design, build and fly an unmanned aircraft system (UAS). Boeing employees serve as instructors for lecture and lab sessions, coaches for student teams, and they participate in UAS design reviews.
Other aviation-related talent pipeline efforts are in the formative stages, primarily for pilots and maintenance personnel.
Sandra Fearon, an organizational psychologist and aviation talent consultant who has participated in the TPM Academy, said an industry group that includes airlines and charter and business aircraft operators is examining career pathways and best practices for a national learning network.
“It’s very forward-thinking, reaching beyond our industry,” said Fearon. “We’re all trying to determine how best to develop work-ready aviation talent.”
One focus is to close the generational skills gap between new hires and seasoned talent, said Fearon.
“Many skilled employees will retire in the coming years, where invaluable knowledge and expertise could be lost,” said Fearon. “Instead of the expectation of the individual needing to adapt and mold to the corporate or employee environment, we as employers need to be open to innovative ways of training and communicating with new talent entering the industry.”
The Aviation Technician Education Council (ATEC) is hoping to nationalize a successful awareness program with the theme, “Choose Aerospace.” Executive Director Crystal Maguire said schools that train airframe and powerplant technicians have the capacity to double student throughput. However, 20 percent of attendees pursue careers outside aviation that pay more, and only 60 percent elect to take the FAA maintenance technician test.
Meanwhile, an FAA working group is making improvements to aviation maintenance testing, and new airman certification standards for written, oral and practical exams are scheduled to be published soon, with a June 2020 effective date, ATEC’s Maguire said. A draft version of the standards is available at www.atec-amt.org/airman-certification-standards.html.
The recently passed FAA reauthorization law mandates that the agency issue a revised FAR Part 147, which governs maintenance training program curriculum. Maguire noted that industry has been calling on regulators to update outdated curriculum requirements for years.
LEVERAGING TECHNOLOGY IN THE RECRUITING PROCESS
Attracting talent “is not just a talent issue. It’s also a technology issue,” said Jaimie Francis, director of programs and operations at the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Center for Education and Workforce. A major shift in recruitment is greater reliance on automated recruiting sourcing and screening, which applies prescriptive analytics of applicant data to determine not only the best potential hires, but those who are likely to stay in the job longer.
Randstad Sourceright’s 2018 Talent Trends research of C-suite and human resources (HR) leaders in 17 countries identified four areas that could be completely automated: candidate database search, tracking HR data/metrics, management of HR analytics and initial screening of candidates.
The popular online job-search website LinkedIn recently launched a “data on demand” subscription service that taps into its worldwide network of nearly 600 million users to build a talent pool report on people with targeted skills.
Recruitment specialists also advise that employers leverage social media, which nearly 80 percent of candidates use for job searches. This includes managing your company’s reputation on sites such as Glassdoor, which features reviews by current and former employees.
Using video in the recruitment process also is rapidly gaining favor. Unilever is experimenting with artificial intelligence (AI) video analysis to screen potential employees and rate them before a recruiter even sees the interviewee. Developer HireVue claims its system uses AI to evaluate 25,000 different features and complex relationships that predict a person’s likely performance.
Nonetheless, Randstad Sourceright’s research cautions that there needs to be balance in the recruitment process. Downselecting, interviewing shortlisted candidates, and onboarding of new talent are typically best handled by humans.