Fast 5: Transitioning Veterans To MRO Careers

Wayne Sisson, COO at FEAM Aero

FEAM Aero’s Chief Operating Officer, Wayne Sisson, is a United States Marine Corps veteran, where he worked as an aircraft electrician on the Grumman A-6 Intruder. In honor of Veterans Day in the U.S., he spoke with Aviation Week about how the MRO industry can better help service members transition to civilian careers in aviation.

What was your journey like transitioning from the military to the MRO workforce?

When I transitioned from the Marine Corps to the civilian workforce, the toughest part was getting the opportunity. The economy and job market were different than today, and I don’t think the military skill sets were as understood or respected as they are today. Once I was given the opportunity, the transition was pretty easy. Loyalty, work ethic and discipline—as well as a pretty transferrable aviation skill set—gave me a solid foundation for success.

What types of challenges do veterans face in transitioning from the military to civilian sectors such as aviation? What skills from your military service have served you well in the MRO industry?

The biggest challenge or hurdle is earning an FAA A&P license, which is largely an absolute necessity. Once this is achieved, it just requires cross training and on-the-job training to civilian aircraft types.

The training to become an aircraft electrician and a troubleshooter have been the technical foundation of what has been an amazing career for me. As importantly, the leadership and soft skills training helped me develop the necessary people skills to be successful in the civilian sector. The ability to troubleshoot problems, as well as motivate and lead people, turned out to be very transferrable skills to the business world. These skills enabled me to grow into some senior positions.

Why is it important for the aviation industry to prioritize veterans as a potential talent pool?

Our veterans have taken an oath to support and defend our nation. They have served and many have sacrificed. I believe our nation has a duty to welcome them home and help them re-engage in the workforce and the communities they have protected.

Veterans are disciplined, motivated and loyal. They are team players, they are leaders and they are extremely well trained, so they are an incredible resource in the talent pool.

How can MROs better attract veterans to their workforce and make the transition to the civilian workforce easier for them?

I believe the best way is to ensure our veterans are aware of who we are, what we do and what is required to be a part of the team. This then needs to be reinforced with the support they might need to transition.

What efforts is FEAM engaged in to recruit veterans and help them adjust to the civilian workforce?

FEAM is truly blessed to have a large population of veterans in both our technician and leadership ranks. We have a partnership with an outstanding recruiting organization that focuses only on veterans, and we are engaged with statewide programs, such as the [Department of Defense] SkillBridge, which helps veterans transition into civilian aviation.

As an example of one of the most amazing recent stories within FEAM, our owner and founder (who is also a veteran) read a post from a Marine on LinkedIn one evening. He sent me a screenshot and, 24 hr. later, this retiring veteran was a FEAM employee who quickly rose through the ranks and is now a regional manager. We love our vets!

Lindsay Bjerregaard

Lindsay Bjerregaard is managing editor for Aviation Week’s MRO portfolio. Her coverage focuses on MRO technology, workforce, and product and service news for, Aviation Week Marketplace and Inside MRO.