How to Build a Career in the Stable Aviation Industry
With the delivery of new commercial aircraft increasing every year since 2010, the big manufacturers will need about 10 years to catch up with demand. Somebody has to build all those new planes and keep the existing fleet safe for flight.
While most workers already benefit from a booming economy, aviation manufacturing and maintenance offers long-term job security. And it’s not just the future that’s bright. During the 2008 recession, there was little decrease in aircraft demand. So even if the economy takes a nosedive in the coming decade — which few are predicting — the impact on aviation is expected to be minimal.
The sky’s the limit
Our experts agree that demand is high, particularly for A&P mechanics, avionics technicians and sheet metal mechanics.
“It seems like everybody needs about 15 to 20 mechanics right now,” says Gamble.
Those number can add up. Boeing estimates that the industry will need to add more than 750,000 new aircraft technicians over the next twenty years.
And with the Aviation Technician Education Council’s assessment that 30 percent of the workforce in the sector is at or near retirement age, it looks like aviator shades are definitely in order.
Something that Gamble and Lewis hear a lot: “Good luck. Recruiting for these roles must be so hard.”
Which is good news for those already in the aviation sector or those getting ready to enter it.
For starters, wages are up. And unlike 10 years ago — that recession again — qualified candidates don’t have to relocate to find attractive positions. Unless, of course, you want to.
“In times like this, when there's high demand, candidates can really look at different locations, whether it's where they are currently or a place that they would like to go,” says Lewis. “There's a lot more opportunities for them to work in their preferred locations.”
The current market also gives job seekers the ability to consider what companies are the best fit in terms of culture and career advancement.
How to get started in an aviation career
For entry-level workers, start career planning while you’re still receiving training — and that means getting real experience. Even with strong demand, employers prefer to hire people with hands-on experience.
“Get some type of aviation experience while you're still in school, whether it's just cleaning planes, fueling planes or loading and unloading,” advises Gamble.
Depending on the size of the airports near you, you can find opportunities to gain experience that you can highlight on your resume. You’ll also get an early look at the work environments you’ll be considering.
More hiring managers are willing to work with candidates who don’t have extensive experience.
“We’re definitely seeing more entry-level hiring,” says Gamble. “If a company can hire a few experienced people, they may add a couple of entry-level hires at the same time.”
And don’t wait until you’ve completed your training to start your job search. Expressing interest in jobs four or five months before your program is finished will get you on the radar of recruiters. With high demand, it’s likely they can help you dive into your career soon after certification.
Highlight relevant experience and ongoing training
Employers also look for relevant experience that can supplement A&P training. If you’ve completed your training and obtained your airframe and powerplant certificate from the FAA, or anything that shows your mechanical aptitude, highlight it in your application. It’s likely to help.
Lewis notes that hiring managers like to see candidates who have relevant experience. Be sure to highlight any of the following:
- Vehicle maintenance
- Industrial equipment repair
- Hand and power tool skills
- Troubleshooting ability
- General mechanical aptitude
Another piece of advice: If you have some relevant experience, you may have had specialized training on specific airframes with a previous employer. You may have taken courses or received additional certification. If so, make sure you can prove it!
“Keep a portfolio of all the certification courses you've completed,” says Lewis. “You can’t always go back and get them later.”
Get experience early, keep adding to your skills, and keep records of your accomplishments.
Aviation’s promising future
Unlike the automotive industry — where consumer preference for SUVs can eliminate entire factories that produce sedans — aviation workers stand on much more solid ground.
To begin with, there’s the projected need for new planes mentioned above — which points to a need for skilled workers to maintain them. With Amazon and its competitors taking over the retail space, more cargo planes will be needed to haul all our online purchases — and returns.
And there will always be corporate air travel and a need for military aircraft.
Because the need for qualified employees is so great, you’ll be able to find work, gain experience and build your resume much more quickly than in the past. You can get cross-trained in skills that will serve you in the future, so you’ll be in demand regardless of where the industry goes.
And there will always be help to keep you moving forward in your career.