An Insider's Look at the Personnel Shortage Crisis in Aviation: A Q&A with JOB AIR Technic

Today, we will delve into a timely and crucial topic that many companies are currently facing: personnel shortages. This issue has become particularly pronounced in specialized industries, such as aviation. Joining us to shed light on this topic is Lenka Vitásková, the HR Director of JOB AIR Technic (a member of the CZECHOSLOVAK GROUP). She will provide us with an insider's look into the personnel shortage crisis in aviation and share the strategies their company is employing to address it. It's worth noting that due to JOB AIR Technic's active recruitment and recognition that local employees are not sufficient, the company employs mechanics of various nationalities. The company has had great success in recruitment, for example, in the Philippines, and Filipinos now make up the third largest nationality working in the company.

How has the personnel shortage impacted JOB AIR Technic's operations, especially in the lead-up to the busy summer season?

The personnel shortage has had a significant impact on JOB AIR Technic's operations, especially as we approach the busy summer season. While we had already been experiencing staff shortages prior to the Covid pandemic, the situation has since spiraled out of control. This has had an obvious and negative impact on our company, as it limits our progress and ability to meet the demands of our clients.

In particular, the demand for maintenance, especially during the winter months, has far exceeded our available supply of qualified personnel. This has had a negative impact on our overall business, with canceled flights and missing personnel being just some of the challenges we have had to face. As we experienced last summer, the shortage of aviation personnel led to not enough available aircraft due to missing maintenance. We are now seeing thousands of canceled flights in anticipation of this summer, which is only further exacerbating the situation. If we had enough available technicians, we could expand our services by building new hangars, but for now, we are forced to wait until the personnel shortage crisis is addressed.

What steps has JOB AIR Technic taken to attract and retain employees in a highly competitive job market?

From the HR point of view, I can say that we have done a lot. We have introduced various benefits, including accommodation support, allowance for transport, sports and social activities, motivational performance bonus system, annual payment of an extra bonus, and, of course, a salary increase. These efforts were recognized with an award as the best employer in our region. However, we understand that benefits and wages are not the only tools to motivate people. We regularly communicate with our employees to ensure they are growing with our company and staying for the long term. We give employees the opportunity to express their opinion, participate in the growth of the company, and, last but not least, to grow in their careers.

Are there any particular areas within the company where the personnel shortage has been especially challenging?

Certainly, the shortage of skilled technicians has been a significant challenge for JOB AIR Technic, particularly in our production department. While we have also faced difficulties in support areas such as logistics and controlling, the primary issue is with technicians. This is due to various factors, including the profession's specificity, its demands in terms of qualifications and language skills, and the frequent need to travel for work. Additionally, the profession of an aircraft mechanic requires continuous learning and development, which can be challenging for some individuals.

Has JOB AIR Technic explored any innovative or unconventional approaches to addressing the personnel shortage?

We have implemented several initiatives to address the personnel shortage. One of our successful strategies has been to recruit mechanics from abroad. For instance, we have a team of mechanics from the Philippines who underwent a rigorous selection process before joining our company. We also actively support education and regularly engage with secondary schools to provide opportunities for practice, scholarships, and career counseling. While we have seen some positive results from these efforts, the number of technicians we can employ annually is still not sufficient to meet our needs. Therefore, we believe that addressing the personnel shortage will require a multifaceted approach that includes both recruitment and retention strategies. We also hope to see more support from the state to address this issue.

Looking to the future, how does JOB AIR Technic view the long-term outlook for personnel availability in the aviation industry, and what steps are they taking to prepare for potential future shortages?

From our perspective, we believe that the shortage of qualified personnel in the aviation industry will persist in the long-term. To address this challenge, we are focusing on various measures such as supporting education, schools, and practical training. We also believe that accelerating the training process, shortening the time required to obtain a license, supporting digitalization and automation, etc. are necessary steps. However, we believe that the most important aspect is to make the profession more attractive to young people. It is important to note that a certified technician with experience can earn more at a relatively young age than someone in a head of IT position. We acknowledge that the market for qualified mechanics in the EU is currently distorted, with overpayment of mechanics between competitors within MRO or airlines. This subsequently leads to the abuse of position and an enormous jump in costs that the customer may no longer be able to bear. We anticipate that it will take at least 3-5 years for the situation to stabilize. It is important to note that an independent mechanic with a license and certification for a particular type needs 3-5 years to be able to independently certify their work, which is the shortest time.

Lenka Vitásková

Lenka graduated from the Mining University, Faculty of Economics with a focus on finance.

For many years, Lenka worked in the energy company Innogy, where she focused on customer care and centralized customer service projects. After 13 years, Lenka moved to a Czech business company and was responsible for building and leading the HR department for 700 employees. Lenka has remained in the field of HR and gained experience in the HR world as an HR manager in a multinational company. In 2019, after returning to Northern Moravia, Lenka began working at Job Air Technic in Mošnov. Building, changing, and working with people is great, it can charge Lenka up, but also drain her. The job market is dynamic, so it is necessary for Lenka to constantly work on improvements and keep up with it at least to some extent. Lenka's interests include reading books about medicine, psychology, cycling trips, and skiing in the winter. Lenka lives by the motto: "The simplest and hardest thing is to tell the truth."

Interview for ACE magazine