This week, Boeing released its hotly anticipated annual outlook, with demand numbers that are oft repeated in workforce development circles. Indeed, ATEC’s annual Pipeline Report (scheduled to publish by the end of the month!) relies heavily on the Boeing forecast when calculating its mechanic “supply” targets.
In its 2021-2040 Pilot and Technician Outlook, Boeing projects that over the next 20 years we’ll need 626,000 new maintenance technicians globally—132,000 of those in North America—to fly and maintain the global commercial aviation fleet.
Avid readers of the annual report will immediately notice a stark difference in this year and last year’s bright, shiny technician demand infographic number—it goes down by more than 100,000 technicians globally (and 60,000 in North America).
This year’s forecast calculation—unlike the two previous years—does not include business aviation and civil helicopter personnel demand. That is, this year’s demand numbers are based only on the 20-year fleet forecast for commercial aviation aircraft (with more than 30 seats) whereas last year the projection numbers considered commercial + business aviation + helicopter fleet demand.
Digging deeper into the subtext of previous year reports and we see that commercial aviation technician demand in North America actually increased seven percent—from 123,000 (the number forecasted in 2019 and 2020) to 132,000. Global demand for commercial aviation technicians goes down, but only by three percent.
Since the demand calculation is based primarily on fleet forecast, the global downturn in technician projections is likely due to the pandemic-induced decline in the growth trajectory. The report indicates as much, stating: “Those in this industry who emerge from market downturns have historically resumed their growth trajectory through collaboration, adaptation, and innovation.”
The report goes on to say—as it has in previous years—that the projections assume a steady stream of “newly qualified personnel to replace those who have left or will soon exit the industry through mandatory retirement, early retirement, recent layoffs and furloughs, and ongoing attrition.” As we know, replacing retiring personnel is a stark challenge all on its own.
Given most maintenance schools utilize the annual Boeing forecast to support recruitment efforts, marketing teams will have their work cut out for them to clearly and succinctly explain the difference between 2020 and 2021 projections (if you find a creative solution, let ATEC know!). But, whether the Boeing forecast includes helicopter and business aviation demand or not, it still paints a stark picture requiring an aggressive playbook to meet future workforce needs.