Last year, when I attended NBAA’s annual Careers in Business Aviation Day during the convention in Las Vegas, I had one of those proverbial “Aha!” moments. It was truly inspiring. On the one hand, the room was full of business aviation veterans eager to share their accumulated knowledge, experience and wisdom. And on the other hand, there were lots of middle school, high school and college students thirsty for knowledge.
As the session got underway, the students asked some terrific questions, e.g., how millennials are perceived in the industry, what they can expect in the process of trying to find jobs and how they can help themselves stand out.
We all exchanged business cards with them, and helped them understand the importance of networking and how to seek out mentors.
That worthwhile experience, along with our recognition of the alarming trend for an evaporating pool of aviation industry talent, inspired me to write the first blog in this two-part series.
In that post, I shared the importance of mentoring young people and getting them interested in aviation. So now, in Part II, I want to share what I’ve learned about the options for attracting high school and college-age students.
Attracting Students to Business Aviation
Not long ago, API spoke with several representatives from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) to understand how they’re attracting students as well as parents, and presenting the benefits of business aviation as a career path.
Lyndse Costabile, the Director of Corporate Relations & Development for Embry-Riddle, told us, “We want students to know that wherever you come from, whatever your circumstances, there’s a place for you in aviation.”
I posed the question of how much of career decisions are influenced by parents and, as I learned, it counts quite a bit.
“During orientation and tours, parents ask our advisors ‘what else is out there’ besides flying?” noted Alicia Smyth, who’s the Executive Director, Career Services, at Embry-Riddle. “And we tell them there are at least 50 different career paths in aviation. We also share that we have a 96 percent placement rate for graduates in all aspects of aviation.”
I imagine that impressive statistic would give parents a sigh of relief!
Addtionally, “The business aviation industry pays some of the highest salaries, which many parents might not realize,” added Louis Seno, the former Vice President for Corporate Relations at Embry-Riddle and Chairman Emeritus of Jet Support Services, Inc. “An entry-level A&P maintenance professional, for example, is knocking on the door of six figures. And the OEMs (aircraft manufacturers) pay very well too, and offer several career paths in sales, marketing, engineering, maintenance, flight crew, etc.”
ERAU students interested in business aviation, in particular, are encouraged to take part in the Business Aviation Student Association. Among many benefits, BASA gives students free admission to the annual NBAA Convention & Exhibition, opportunities to attend meet-and-greets with industry leaders, tour aircraft manufacturers, learn about scholarships and internships, and network with bizav industry professionals.
NBAA Outreach for Students
Talking about the NBAA and its focus on helping students broaden their interest and opportunities in all things aviation, we also spoke to Pete Korns, the Manager of Operations for the NBAA, and asked him what else his organization might be doing in that regard.
Pete mentioned that he and his team are particularly focused on attracting younger students in middle school and high school. “We want to target those who are just kicking off their career plans,” he said. “Once a young person knows what they want to study, that’s where we need to share the opportunities.”
He said that, at the NBAA, they’re focused on educating young professionals to: (1) show them the value of business aviation; and (2), explain the numerous career paths that are possible in the industry (“There are probably 50 different career path you can take,” he said); and finally, (3) offer them opportunities to get involved and engage.
Learning about business aviation through the annual NBAA Careers in Business Aviation Day, as mentioned above, is the one of the best ways for students to understand all aspects of career path within our industry. And, of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the Career Day itself was the brainchild of API’s founder and chairman Janice Barden.
In addition to the work being done in Washington D.C, NBAA’s regional representatives play a big role at the local level by attending various career fairs at local high schools and bringing together NBAA regional groups and students at the state level. Pete Korn encourages any young person who’s interested in aviation to contact their regional rep, as they’re likely to be familiar with the regional events and what’s happening at the state level.
Check Out Aviation Scholarships
An aviation scholarship can provide some solid leverage for students when it comes to helping them make an informed decision about their career direction. There are several great resources for aviation scholarships on AOPA’s website, NBAA’s website and Women in Corporate Aviation’s website.
Additionally, API’s founder, Janice Barden, has a namesake scholarship. Through the UAA Janice K. Barden Aviation Scholarship, NBAA Charities annually awards $1,000 to each of five undergraduates studying aviation-related curricula at NBAA and University Aviation Association (UAA) member institutions.
You can learn more about Janice and the scholarship opportunity here.
Another important stone to overturn in helping students find aviation careers is the availability of internships. Nothing could be more helpful to an aspiring aviation professional than an opportunity to work directly in the field.
Not only will the experience help give interns a leg up on potential job offers, but some internships even offer stipends—token pay—for students.
For flight departments interested in hiring interns or providing internships, there’s an online guide from NBAA here.
I’ll be the first to say we may not have all the answers—there’s plenty more out there to discover with regard to helping students—but we did want to share some of the many resources available to help flight departments get involved in attracting young people to our industry. We hope that in doing so we can continue to encourage talented young aviation-minded men and women to step into this rewarding profession.
I certainly hope you’ll take advantage of these—and other—resources. As a member of this dynamic industry, you can be instrumental in helping all of us work toward bringing more talented young people into the profession. To say that it’s critical for the future of business aviation is an understatement.
PHOTO CREDIT: Special thanks to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Use of the above photo does not imply ERAU’s endorsement, sponsorship or business relationship with API or its products and services.