The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) employs approximately 5,000 maintenance technicians who install, maintain, repair, and certify roughly 74,000 pieces of equipment in the National Airspace System. Citing concerns with staffing and training for this important workforce, the House Committee on Appropriations directed our office to assess the Agency’s plans for hiring, training, and placing maintenance technicians. Previously, we reported on FAA’s process for hiring and placement. Our objective for this review was to evaluate FAA’s process for prioritizing and providing training to maintenance technicians.
What We Found
FAA projects training and hiring requirements only 1 year in advance and does not proactively identify and prioritize maintenance technician training and hiring needs in anticipation of pending retirements. According to Federal internal control standards, management should consider how best to plan for employees’ eventual departure and retain needed skills and abilities. As a result, FAA has developed workforce plans for air traffic controllers and aviation safety inspectors that target training and hiring needs 10 years in advance—but does not do so for maintenance technicians. It takes 1.5 years on average to promote a newly hired maintenance technician to the journeyman level, so 1 year of advance planning is not adequate to prepare for future workforce needs. Two FAA lines of business that fall under three different vice presidents are responsible for the maintenance technician training process, which makes it difficult to establish a collaborative training process and make budgetary decisions. Travel funding and other factors have also hindered FAA’s ability to increase the number of technicians who can receive training in a given year. Although the Agency is using e-learning options, it has not documented lessons learned or formally analyzed student feedback to determine course formats. The lack of a strategic approach hinders FAA’s ability to develop a sustainable workforce model.
We made four recommendations to improve FAA’s approach to prioritizing and providing technical training to maintenance technicians. FAA concurred with all four recommendations.
No. 1 to FAA
Establish and implement a maintenance technician workforce plan that considers factors such as average training time, training requirements, and staffing turnover for a period longer than 1 year.
No. 2 to FAA
Update and implement a formal process that better defines roles and responsibilities and establishes improved communication and collaboration among the stakeholders responsible for maintenance technician training, including Technical Operations, Technical Training, and the FAA Academy.
No. 3 to FAA
Develop and implement a process that includes defined roles and responsibilities for the groups within Technical Training responsible for the management of training solution procurements.
No. 4 to FAA
Update and implement a formal process to periodically evaluate training course feedback from maintenance technicians, generate regular reports for FAA Technical Training management’s review, and share the lessons learned to improve future course content and delivery.