Anyone who has boarded a plane in the past several months knows this all too well: the near-term future of airlines is up in the air.
From smallest to largest, all the carriers have been dramatically affected by the post-Covid rebound in passenger air travel. Delta and United Airlines each cut 30% of their respective staff in 2020.
And while many observers point to the attractive buyouts the carriers dangled before critical employees (read: pilots) as means to cut costs amid the mass groundings during the pandemic, employment has shot up over the past 18 months.
Take Delta, for instance. The second-largest airline in the world has hired 18,000 new employees since January 2021. But even with its staffing back to 95% of what it was pre-Covid, capacity reportedly is some 10 percentage points lower. Reason: it takes time to train the newbies.
“The chief issue we’re working through is not hiring but a training and experience bubble,” said Ed Bastian, CEO, Delta.
And the more complicated the job, the longer the training period. Which reveals yet another crack in the fuselage: a lack of trainers. To wit: American says its pilots are basically stuck waiting for training classes to open up, as the number of new hires far outpaces the available slots. The backlog is said to be six months or more.
The issue runs so deep, it has its own name: the Juniority problem.
United has gone on the offensive, blaming — who else? — the government. United chief operating officer Jon Roitman estimates “over 50% of our delay minutes and 75% of our cancels in the past four months were because of FAA traffic management initiatives.”
But all this comes back to the industry’s lack of foresight — or unwillingness — to continue to invest in its workers during the inevitable economic cycles.
You know where I’m going with this.
The PCB industry is historically boom/bust. We are coming off a run of very strong years, and the forecast, according to Dr. Hayao Nakahara, the preeminent researcher in the industry, continues to look bright.
But the graying of the industry is very real, and its long past time OEMs invested in recruiting and training the next generation of designers, design engineers and manufacturing engineers. (And yes, I am pointing at OEMs, since they are top the of the pyramid and ultimately their needs are the driver for the rest of the supply chain’s decision-making.
Let’s learn from the airlines, or, more precisely, their mistakes. It’s time for the push to onboard the next generation of engineers to take flight.