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GAO Workforce Report Can Be Resource for Industry

On Feb. 6, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released the first in a series of reports mandated by the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 to study aviation industry and agency workforce, career development and training matters.

Additional Coordination and Data Could Advance FAA Efforts to Promote a Robust, Diverse Workforce
U.S. Government Accountability Office
February 2020

GAO recommended that FAA use its 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. FAA agreed with the recommendation.

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.

The report team performed this work by analyzing available government data, chronicling programs and resources supporting aviation career development and interviewing/observing industry stakeholders. ARSA was among the 16 semi-structured interviews administered with employers, technical schools, unions, training organizations and other trade associations.

In general, the final report indicated that government-managed data for analyzing the aviation workforce is misleading. Information available through the FAA, Bureau of Labor Statistics and other organizations does not accurately portray the current state of maintenance employment, nor does it differentiate among and between the types of individuals, e.g., certificated vs. non-certificated, working in the industry. As a result, neither the government nor business community can accurately assess current employment, detect trends or prepare for future needs.

In addition to this analysis, the report reviews 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 inter-industry 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.”

In offering solutions, the GAO focused on the relatively-new FAA Workforce Steering Committee. The internal agency body presents “an opportunity to engage other federal agencies to explore potential data sources…and discuss ways to expand, diversify and strengthen career pathways for the aviation maintenance workforce.”

To review the full report, click here. ARSA will continue to work with the information provided by the GAO, engage FAA and work with other stakeholders to make good on the many workforce-related mandates that came out of the FAA reauthorization process.

Stay tuned for more on this report as well as additional releases from the GAO.



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