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ARSA CORNER HOLD IT UP BY BRETT LEVANTO, VICE PRESIDENT OF OPERATIONS, AERONAUTICAL REPAIR STATION ASSOCIATION


IN FEBRUARY, THE U.S. GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY OFFICE (GAO) RELEASED THE FIRST OF A SERIES OF REPORTS MANDATED BY THE FAA REAUTHORIZATION ACT OF 2018 TO STUDY AVIATION INDUSTRY AND FAA WORKFORCE, CAREER DEVELOPMENT AND TRAINING MATTERS.


The report’s title – like everything


else produced by the GAO – gives you enough information to share the basic findings at a cocktail party: “Additional Coordination and Data Could Advance FAA Efforts to Promote a Robust, Diverse Workforce.” It directs the FAA to “use existing data and coordinate with other federal agencies to identify and gather information to measure progress and target resources toward its goal of promoting a robust, qualified, and diverse aviation maintenance workforce.” The report was developed by


direction of section 624 of the FAA reauthorization law, which had been championed by ARSA. In working with Congress to develop the relevant language, the association drew on its experience dealing with a confusing maze of government resources and the struggle to better organize data for tracking aviation maintenance personnel.


Picking up on its legislative


instruction, the GAO produced a report that examines: (1) What available federal data reveal about the FAA-certificated aviation maintenance workforce. (2) How selected government agencies, educational institutions and businesses provide support and coordinate to develop the aviation


maintenance workforce. (3) The progress FAA has made in update its curriculum, certification and testing standards for mechanics. ARSA was among the 16 semi-


structured interviews administered for the report with employers, technical schools, unions, training organizations and other trade associations. (In 2019, meeting with GAO report teams was a common occurrence for me. They are all very polite and inquisitive.) In general, the final product offers


a resource for industry members to review a broad range of government programs and opportunities that can serve maintenance employment. It also makes – albeit subtly – key points that confirm long-standing arguments made by ARSA and its allies regarding the scope of the maintenance workforce stretching far beyond mechanic certification and the challenge of interindustry competition for technical talent. It also provides direction to the government to improve its data analysis and strategically use its resources to support industry personnel needs. “Both the federal government and other industries benefit from having a professional, trained and qualified workforce, and addressing aviation workforce needs is a shared responsibility among…different stakeholders,” the report’s conclusion


said. “However, without strategically using or analyzing the data it has along with data other stakeholders collect, FAA will not have certain information it needs to target its resources or measure and improve progress toward its aviation workforce goals.” So, here we are in the classic position of government advocacy. We asked for something (the GAO to review workforce data practices and assess how the government can help grow aviation talent) and got it (a report detailing a number of limitations in how we could aerospace employment and directing better coordination by federal actors). What do we do now? Hold it up. That’s what I say.


Entering this exercise, ARSA’s experience taught us that the numbers used to assess what’s going on in terms of maintenance employment were misleading (visit arsa.org/soc to see what we tried to do about it four years ago). Now the U.S. government has given us a report saying that it’s true: The numbers are flawed, and we can do better. So, every time someone asks


what’s holding back the maintenance community, hold up this report. Every time someone argues that the


numbers indicate there isn’t a shortage of technical talent in this industry, hold it up.


34 DOMmagazine.com | apr 2020


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