Will There Be A Shortage of Aircraft Engineers in the Future?

Aircraft Turbine Engine Maintenance

The rapid increase in demand for air travel over the past few decades has led to an increase in the demand for aerospace engineers, which sadly, has not been met. Aviation has been one of the fastest growing industries and the fact that it is global, the need for qualified engineers now spans the entire globe.

According to Boeing’s Technician Outlook: 2018 – 2037 report, the global demand for aerospace technicians could reach as much as 754,000 over the next 20 years. As it currently stands, the industry barely has enough hands on deck. As a result of this, there are major concerns that the industry will stop growing as a result of the shortage of aircraft engineers.

Is aerospace engineering no longer appealing?

As the internet becomes more dominant, so has the demand and interest in jobs related to the internet and online business. Most people in the millennial and Generation-Z brackets are more open to digital experiences than practical ones.

Aircraft undergoing Maintenance Checks

Not only is the world not producing enough engineers, but it also is not producing enough capable engineers. A study by the University of North Dakota (UND), the Helicopter Association International (HAI) and the Helicopter Foundation International (HFI), found that 60% of companies surveyed reported having to hire less qualified mechanics than they did several years ago.

Even though aerospace engineers earn a very respectable income, there aren’t enough applicants. It’s become apparent that not many people are interested, and this needs to be fixed.

Growing demand for aviation

Over the next two decades, Airbus predicts that about 37,400 passengers and freight aircraft will be needed. Over 26,000 of these planes will be additions to existing fleets, while 11,000 will be replacements. There are currently 21,450 aircraft in operation.

With planes set to more than double by 2037 to meet the demand for air travel, a workforce injection of aerospace engineers is desperately needed. The survey by UND revealed that some companies would not be able to expand if they do not have enough qualified technicians.

How to reverse the shortage of aerospace engineers

1.Apprenticeships

Aircraft Turbine Engine Removal/Installation

The shortage of trained engineers in aerospace and other fields has been a problem the UK has been trying to correct since the 1980s. Several programs have been launched to boost apprenticeships with varying degrees of success. The first one was the National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) introduced in 1986 by the Margaret Thatcher regime.

Unfortunately, this was not welcomed by employers, so the system had minimal effect until the Modern Apprenticeship was introduced in 1994. Between 1996 and 2010, the UK went from having 75,000 apprentices to 280,000. The system was so effective that other industries besides engineering and manufacturing began to adopt it.

2.Higher Education Training

While apprenticeships are beneficial, more is needed in terms of higher education training. To this end, leading universities in the UK offer a wide range of aerospace engineering courses to more than cater for the growing demand.

These three to four-year courses give students the opportunity to learn advanced techniques that would have taken longer with an apprenticeship. It also helps students to get senior engineering roles.

Some higher institutions such as Brunel University London, give students the opportunity to earn a private pilot license with their engineering degree.

3.Private Training Centres

Aircraft Undercarriage and Turbine Engine

Private corporations employing large numbers of employees are also investing in their own training centers to stem the shortfall. BAE Systems is investing in apprenticeships and graduate programmes to help boost its capacity as one of the largest employers in the aerospace industry globally.

Airlines and other corporations are taking part in industry-education partnerships and in some countries have been able to get support from their respective governments. As these companies continue to feel the toll of the capable employee drought, they understand that the only way to keep expanding is to be responsible for training their own aerospace engineers.

Beyond private companies with large fleets to take care of, other centers have emerged. Air Service Training provides training towards the EASA Part 66 Category ‘A’ & ‘B’ Aircraft maintenance licenses, which are the most valuable qualification in aircraft maintenance. This is hands-on training that confirms the capabilities of the license holder, which is an advantage over those with academic qualifications.

By completing this training, technicians are more likely to get employed after completion. This gives an extra pathway for people looking to become aircraft engineers.

What is standing in the way?

The successful intervention of these techniques has been limited by a few factors, such as disinterest in engineering jobs and the high cost of tuition. With Generation Z being an internet-focused group, more needs to be done to target and persuade them to choose a career in aviation.

However, that is only half the battle. Getting a degree in aerospace engineering can cost up to £24,000 for tuition and accommodation alone per year for students not adding piloting to their course.

For this to change, scholarship programs need to be implemented for this field in particular. Otherwise, the shortage will continue and soon there will not be enough engineers to build or maintain new planes. This means an increase in costs for the aviation industry and world travelers alike.

Conclusion

The shortage of aerospace engineers is a growing problem that is being addressed, but not sufficiently nor quickly enough.

To prevent stagnation in the industry, various governments and the industry itself need to put more effort into training, apprenticeships, and scholarships for the shortage to come to an end.