© 2021 | WUWF Public Media
11000 University Parkway
Pensacola, FL 32514
850 474-2787
NPR for Florida's Great Northwest
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Local News

Wanted: aircraft techs for ST Engineering, UPS

ST UPS 2.jpg
Dave Dunwoody
/
WUWF Public Media

ST Engineering and United Parcel Service are partnering on a new program to train aircraft maintenance personnel at ST’s complexes in Pensacola and Mobile, Alabama.

The joint effort seeks to create a pipeline of qualified aircraft maintenance technicians, to answer the growing needs of the aviation industry. ST Engineering and UPS will work together on a skills progression program which will provide on-the-job training to prospective aviation technicians.

“With successful completion of all required training and skills progression, these employees could be eligible to interview for a job with UPS,” said Brian Beasley, ST Engineering’s Director of Marketing and Sales for the Pensacola and Mobile operations.

“It allows a pipeline for individuals to come to ST Engineering,” he added. “But it also creates a pipeline for UPS for trained mechanics that are trained in this hangar on UPS equipment for their manuals and their maintenance requirements.”

This is the first such initiative between an airline and MRO [Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul] service provider, which offers training and career opportunities to individuals seeking work in aircraft maintenance. Beasley concedes that this approach is a bit creative.

UPS, ST officials signing agreement
Dave Dunwoody WUWF Public Media

“In the labor market — as you all well know — has been a little bit touch-and-go for the past couple of years, where we’ve had to struggle; but in spite of COVID, by 2030, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that AMT [aviation maintenance] jobs will grow by 11%,” said Beasley. “And there will be 14,000 new jobs added each year over the next 10 years.”

Participants recruited for the program will undergo three years of on-the-job accelerated trade and skills training, dedicated to UPS aircraft work. It will feature levels of apprentices, mechanics and technicians.

“I’ll just share some statistics on why we’re doing this and why is it important for us to go on this journey,” said Stephen Lim, President of ST Engineering Aerospace America. He shared with the audience some numbers behind the need.

“From the latest Boeing report, in the next 20 years this industry will require 670,000 mechanics worldwide,” Lim said. “The U.S. alone will require 190,000.”

And one of the main dilemmas the aviation maintenance industry is facing, is that the workforce ain’t getting any younger.

“With the early retirement post-COVID, the average age of an aviation professional in [the U.S.] is 51 years old; and in that group, about 30% are 64 years old and older,” Lim said. “We are going to get a tsunami coming at us if we do not do something by trying to get new entrants into the market.”

“So, one of the benefits of hiring these new technicians from this program, is it will shorten the initial learning curve when we bring them onto UPS; we can put ‘em on the ramp, and they have a much better proficiency of what our requirements are, and ready to go to work much faster,” said Bill Moore, Vice President for aircraft maintenance and engineering with UPS.

“Reliability is the core of our business; and our customers demand more and more from us every day,” Moore said. “So we need a pipeline that these talented aircraft mechanics to help us serve our customers in the future. And UPS and ST Engineering have enjoyed a long and productive relationship, and have developed a strong partnership that we’re very proud of.”

By the way, the “International” part of the name Pensacola International Airport is derived from the cargo flights of UPS and other such carriers here who deliver globally.

“It’s groundbreaking, it’s innovative; and obviously having that happen here in Pensacola is a real testament to our community, and the companies that we have here,” said Scott Luth, President and CEO of Florida West, the Panhandle’s economic development arm.

He adds that the success of aviation here, is acknowledged by what he calls creative investments in the community.

“In seeing the growth from ST, it always opens up those additional opportunities for growth,” Luth said. “Whether in this particular sector or affiliated to aviation, it just continues to tell everybody that Northwest Florida is a great place for aviation — no matter what size, no matter what type — it really makes the difference.”

Ground was broken in July for a second hangar at ST in Pensacola, with plans for two more hangars at the site adjacent to the airport.