Among the work done by members of the NBAA Corporate Aviation Management Committee (CAMC), one of the key areas is bringing new blood into the industry, a task assigned to the Professional Development subcommittee. Co-chairs Tara Harl and Dan Wolfe lead the subcommittee’s efforts, including updates to the Pipeline Guide, “an initiative that seeks to identify issues in the workforce and provide solutions to those issues.” Other subcommittee work includes helping flight departments set up and manage internship programs and oversight of the CAMC Leadership Conference and Baldwin scholarships.
Harl, a pilot who has run flight departments and a management company, holds a Ph.D. from Kansas State University and is a consultant, and Wolfe is director of aviation for Nationwide Insurance.
The Pipeline Guide was first published in 2010, but Harl and Wolfe are working on updating the guide and eventually turning it into a more modern toolkit, something that could be an app for mobile devices instead of a static document. The updated guide will be available on NBAA’s CAMC webpage once it is reviewed atNBAA headquarters.
“Dan and I both believe internships and apprenticeships are a magical portal to get industry to meet these college students and young entry-level employees,” Harl said. “They also give young folks first-hand knowledge of the industry and networking [opportunities]. We have seen it change attitudes at flight departments when young people are there; it boosts morale.”
In Harl’s opinion, not enough flight departments understand the benefits of internships and apprenticeships. “We struggle to get our industry to understand that,” she said, noting that company legal departments often shut down flight-department internships because of unspecified liability concerns.
Harl promotes internships as much as possible, especially at the NBAA Leadership Conference and other venues such as during a panel session at last year’s NBAA show. One chief pilot at that meeting, she said, “got fired up and developed an internship program with Auburn University.”
EDUCATION AND OUTREACH EFFORTS
These efforts are important, according to Harl, because business aviation is facing a huge shortage of new entrants into the career pipeline. “We have a tsunami hitting us in three areas,” she explained. First, all the baby boomers, the most educated group of Americans,are reaching retirement age. Second, the changing demographics facing an industry that tends to self-select from a shrinking population of white males. Finally, “We have a public school system that is failing us, not only in Stem [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] but also in other areas.” For the latter issue, Harl is particularly concerned that children who live in lower socio-economic environments experience the worst schools in the U.S.“We’ve got to start looking at these issues and address them or we’re going to be in a pickle.”
Business aviation, she said, is “a phenomenal career opportunity. And business aviation needs people from all walks of life. The perception is that if you’re not a white male you can’t get in. It’s an education issue, to get the word out.”
While Harl is disappointed that more flight departments aren’t helping to promote business aviation careers, she urges people in this industry to work with college and high-school students, local groups such as the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Boys & Girls clubs, church youth groups and so on. For those who might qualify for a scholarship, promoting the Leadership Conference and Baldwin scholarships would be a big help, because typically there are few applicants. “Somehow we’re not getting the word out,” she noted.
Each of the five scholarship winners this year received $2,000 to attend the annual Leadership Conference, which not only exposes them to career and networking opportunities but also gives flight department attendees a chance to meet potential future employees and leaders. Scholarship money was donated by United Technologies, CAMC members and an anonymous donor.
Jeannine Falter, Duncan Aviation’s vice president of business development and holder of a Ph.D. in business psychology, was the 2015 Leadership Conference chair and is well aware of the pipeline issues facing business aviation. Duncan Aviation has proved that finding new talent can be done, and the company spends a lot of resources not only on promoting aviation careers but also on developing new leaders from the ranks of its employees.
“It’s interesting how so few young people know about our industry,” she said. “If they don’t have a family member who works on [business aircraft], then business aviation is not on their radar. Catching them early is important.” Duncan holds career fairs and invites students from nearby states to visit, as well as aviation vendors to “come and talk about what the industry is all about,” she said. Duncan also hosts interns at all of its locations, with about 20 to 25 at the company’s Lincoln, Neb. headquarters every summer. “It’s a great experience and gets us great exposure, too,” she said. “We hire a lot of them.”