This NBAA Flight Plan podcast regarding the bizav hiring outlook originally appeared on August 1, 2022.
The outlook for business aviation hiring remains strong, despite a number of challenges weighing on the global economy.
However, job seekers must carefully consider multiple factors when making their employment decision.
“People who are looking for work [must] not be swayed by the shiny objects [compensation alone],” emphasizes Jennifer Pickerel with Aviation Personnel International. “When there’s a lot of opportunity, I think there’s even more responsibility to do your diligence.”
2022 Bizav Hiring Outlook, Part II
In this episode of NBAA’s “Flight Plan,” host Rob Finfrock speaks with:
–Jennifer Pickerel, vice president, Aviation Personnel International
–Jennifer Guthrie, CEO, In-Flight Crew Connections
Following is an edited transcript:
What trends will impact hiring in our industry for the remainder of the year? From the National Business Aviation Association, this is Flight Plan. I’m Rob Finfrock with your trusted source for business aviation news and information.
You may recall our first episode of flight plan for 2022, which focused on the outlook for business aviation hiring in the year ahead in the face of rising inflation and lingering concerns over COVID 19.
Well, we’re now more than halfway through the year and not much has really improved on those fronts. The end of July brought news of the second quarter of falling economic growth in the U.S., and depending on who you talk to a looming recession. And of course, the Coronavirus is still stubbornly hanging on with a seemingly endless line of new variants, while we also face continued global strife in Eastern Europe, and saber rattling and other parts of the world as well.
Today, I’m pleased to welcome back my panelists from that earlier episode for an update on the hiring situation in our industry in this environment. Jennifer Pickerel is vice president at Aviation Personnel International. And Jennifer Guthrie is CEO of In-Flight Crew Connections.
Jennifer Guthrie, let’s begin with you. Have those factors affected hiring in our industry so far this year?
We do not see them affecting any hiring trends at this point. We have seen a very high demand not only for hiring recruitment services, but also for contracted labor. I mean, the demand is still very, very high. And COVID, Ukraine, in my opinion, they’re not affecting us today. My biggest concern to watch is what’s going to happen with the economy. And how is that going to affect operators, as the year moves on?
With the airlines, there’s such a high demand of retirements and furloughs, and all of the issues that they’re experiencing. And even though we don’t have the same problems, we still have a talent shortage in corporate.
I agree with Jennifer that certainly the demand is very high. What’s interesting is that we’re seeing the pent-up demand that’s realized right now. And I think it’ll be interesting to see the recession (or the impending recession, potentially), and how that marries with this COVID and the talent shortage impact. Because commercial aviation is still less popular. There are less routes available because of the talent shortage. As a result, I’ll be curious to see if business jets are a little better insulated from RIFs (reductions in force) and such (e.g., from selling of an aircraft). Because it’s not an easy alternative to travel commercially anymore. I think that’ll be interesting to watch.
From a passive job seeker perspective, what we’re seeing with this potential impending recession, is that folks are very worried about making a lateral move, in particular. A lot of candidates are asking what the policy is for companies if they have a RIF. Is the policy, “last one in, first one out?” So we can see the impact of that on the candidate database, if you will.
What skills and background are employers looking for, Jennifer Pickerel, when hiring in the current environment?
Well, you know, Rob, my fear—and I’m curious if Jennifer has this inclination—is that hiring is becoming far more tactical and less strategic. Because of the shortages and what we’re seeing happening on the training side, with simulator time not being available. That employers will start looking only for type rated pilots. So they may sacrifice a potential cultural addition to their team, because they need somebody that flies a 350 because you can’t fly without them. (I hear it’s just almost impossible to get SIM training for the Challenger 350.) So I fear that people will look less strategically at their hiring. They won’t be looking at succession planning. And it’s going to be more of an immediate need or a more tactical approach to hiring.
I agree. I think that you see a lot more companies hiring based on who is available as opposed to who is the most qualified candidate for the job. And that’s just I think due to supply and demand. From a strategic perspective, what I am glad to see is that the openness for more younger talent to enter. And less experienced in departments that have the ability to, you know, pair them with someone who is more experienced. I think that’s beginning to succession planning. And then how are you going to build up a flight department instead of an older flight department where everybody might retire at the same time. So I do see a younger generation coming in. But there’s definitely still a great need for tech trade, tech skills. You know, from A&Ps to pilots.
Certainly one of those trends has been our industry’s ongoing effort to not only attract new workers, but also develop a more diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce. Jennifer Guthrie, how have you seen employers embrace DE&I as part of their hiring process?
I see them totally embracing it. The problem is that there’s not enough candidates out there to bring into business aviation. So I think one of the challenges that business aviation faces is in educating our youth and the younger generation about considering business aviation as an option. I recently visited the RedTail Flight Academy. And you know, it’s quite an impressive program. And I personally would hire any of them that can come through that program. I do see, from my clientele, a total embrace. It’s just a matter of getting the candidates.
I would agree that there is more of an appetite. I think it’s driven by supply and demand. And I will say that, and I don’t want this to come across as negative, but I think it’s something our industry has to be really mindful of is that we have an external focus on diversity, meaning we want to hire people from underrepresented communities because we talent. So are we hiring because we need talent or because we want to embrace those underrepresented communities. But the real question is, what is their experience like when they get there, and that’s an area that I think is rife with opportunity for improvement in our industry. Talking about inclusion specifically.
I can tell you, I have countless stories of people who have been hired on what we would call a diversity initiative, only to arrive to their new home, if you will, and be ostracized and not included. So I think there’s this immense pressure to get talent in the door. There’s often immense pressure from the corporate enterprise with a mandate that says you have to include people from diverse backgrounds on your candidate slate, etc. But there’s not enough focus on what do we do when they arrive.
When we reach out for diverse talent, we have a real responsibility to ensure we’re prepared to receive them. A lot of flight departments say that their flight department is like a family. And so you have to truly bring them in like family and allow them to show up in their authentic selves.
Just one thing I’ll add is that people with invisible differences—those who have different sexual orientations, it can be even more difficult? And so we have to be so conscientious about how we talk to people, the assumptions that we make, we have to truly be rooted in inclusion, even not knowing somebody’s background. That has to be the foundation.
True. Because I really think that’s kind of a two-step process, right? There’s the company announcing its focus on promoting DE&I. And then there’s the individual truly understanding and accepting the reasons and the need for such initiatives.
Absolutely, Rob. I always encourage leaders that if that mandate is given to them, it’s perfectly reasonable to push back. They can say, “Well, we need to make sure our team is prepared, we need training, or we need to really ensure that we’re equipped as a team to invite that person in—as opposed to a solely external focus. Because then what happens is these people are further exploited.
And I feel for a lot of flight departments because I think the corporate messaging isn’t always great. They’re not talking about why the mandate exists, they’re just telling them to implement it. So that doesn’t feel good either.
Very good points. So looking toward the remainder of the year, do you expect hiring trends to continue at the same pace we’re seeing now?
I anticipate it’s going to continue. I think because commercial aviation is not a completely viable alternative now, business aviation is going to continue to be challenged to find talent.
And obviously, we see what’s happening with commercial aviation seeking talent so aggressively from our group. And to Jennifer’s point from the young talent, the Delta Propel program, United’s Aviate program, I mean, they’re just everywhere.
I think that business aviation will continue to have to fly—that the demand will still be there. We will still be competing with commercial airlines for talent. And commercial airlines will not be a sound alternative for executive travel. In my mind, that means that we’re going to see the demand continue.
Is that what you foresee as well, Jennifer Guthrie?
I believe so. I think that there may be some shifting and some companies will not be affected by a potential recession, where others may be. We kind of saw that in COVID, where some companies kept flying, because they had to. The shortage is still there, so the need is still going to be there, and I see through the end of the year, still hiring.
What advice do you have for those looking for jobs in business aviation in the current climate?
You know, aviation is a very small community. I think it’s very important that candidates network, and not be afraid to ask questions. I think in looking at the companies that you’re targeting, as to what kind of solutions or what can you add to them and doing your research about them to learn of what what’s important, and what’s the level of talent that they might have in the organization? And then, you know, maybe focus on what skill sets that do you need to improve to make you more attractive?
Jennifer Pickerel, what tips would you like to share?
I agree with Jennifer. I think the name of the game is absolutely research. There’s so much information available to us these days; I really encourage people to dive deep into culture. And to understand and identify everything they can about a prospective employer’s culture.
For example, LinkedIn is a fantastic way to identify someone who works at a company that you might have interest in. Then reach out to them for a discussion. There’s really no better resource than someone who’s actually working there.
I also would say to the people who are looking for work to not be swayed by the “shiny objects.” When there’s a lot of opportunity, I think there’s even more responsibility to do your diligence. Take that task seriously and don’t be swayed by compensation alone. My fear is that people will go to the highest bidder, if you will—only to learn that perhaps that’s not a cultural fit for them. I’m agreeing with Jennifer in that if you’re a jobseeker, you should network and do your research before you take that leap.
if you’re looking to take that leap and apply for a job in business aviation, in addition to contacting my guests at their respective companies, you can also utilize the NBAA jobs board that helps match companies with prospective employees and offers jobseekers tips on such important skills as networking, utilizing social media and putting your best foot forward at an interview.