The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not regularly addressed the “competency gaps” that hinder its inspector and engineering workforces in their monitoring of the aviation industry, according to a new report by a government oversight agency.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) said, in a report released this month, that the FAA Office of Aviation Safety (AVS) has begun identifying critical competencies – skills, knowledge, abilities and behaviors – that inspectors and engineers need to do their jobs. As an example, the report cited data analytics, systems thinking and risk-based decision making as competencies that engineers need to perform safety oversight.
However, the report said, “AVS officials told GAO that managers in offices located across the country individually assess whether their respective employees have the skills needed to carry out their responsibilities. This approach does not provide AVS an organization-wide view of competency gaps.”
The report noted that AVS training for inspectors and engineers includes “extensive introductory curricula” along with recurrent training and on-the-job training, but it does not regularly review the curricula to determine if they provide workers with required competencies.
“Recurring comprehensive reviews are consistent with key training guidance,” the report said. “Without recurring assessments of the curricula, AVS does not have the ability to identify whether there are gaps within the training such as on oversight activities related to new technologies or whether critical competencies necessary for carrying out its safety mission are being sufficiently emphasized.”
The report noted that, especially with a large number of retirements expected over the next few years and the introduction of new technologies, “FAA must ensure that safety inspectors and engineers possess skills needed for effective oversight as well as for a variety of highly technical skills in aerospace technology.”
The report recommended that AVS begin conducting recurring assessments of organization-wide competency gaps for inspectors and engineers and that it evaluate the training curricula for both groups. The FAA agreed with the recommendations, the report said.