NATA’s 2018 Aviation Leadership Conference explored various ways to attract new people into the industry in the face of growing workforce shortages. Two major themes emerged: the industry must reach directly out to students on a local level and build bridges on a national level to take a multifaceted approach. NATA hosted the session on strategies for workforce development as has recently launched a Workforce Development Committee to discuss concerns about pilot, mechanic, and other shortages and potential solutions.
Aviation businesses should reach out to technical colleges and universities to meet with students to explain their businesses and their hopes for new employees, said Angel Newhart, statewide division director for aerospace at Texas State Technical College (TSTC). But she cautioned businesses to stick to selling one’s own business rather than disparaging another also trying to recruit. That has happened on a few occasions at TSTC and resulted in students walking out of those sessions, Newhart said.
With access to social media and the internet, students come to these sessions far more informed and know when an employer is properly portraying various scenarios. With that knowledge, Newhart added, students today have much higher expectations than they did in past.
Addressing concerns that small businesses do not have the resources and staffing to send employees all over the country on recruiting trips, Newhart suggested meetings via the Web.
Business aviation as a whole needs to do a better selling itself to students, added Elaine Lapotosky, director of operations for Jet Professionals. This includes not only the business of business aviation but also the company’s cultures. While dollars matter, an employer’s culture, the ability for new entrants to feel a part of a team, and long-term growth prospects also matter, she said. Also pointing to Web-savvy students, she advised companies to think about how they present their culture on the internet, saying this will matter to potential prospects.
Another important aspect is the interview process, Lapotosky said, advising to get more people involved and think about how these students are treated and introduced to the company.
Duncan Aviation chairman Todd Duncan agreed, saying, “It starts with culture.” He emphasized the need to underscore the opportunities that these careers present. He noted that while business aviation must compete with airlines for top prospects, it also has to compete with a range of companies from other industries. Duncan Aviation has developed an internship program where students are paid to work on the shop floors and get firsthand experience. At the same time, the company is able to assess the future prospects for those students.
Word-of-mouth is another powerful tool, said Paul Capistrant, assistant chief pilot, flight operations for Solairus Aviation. His company has found that to be a successful recruiting tool by having its own employees reach out to other prospects.
While looking at the opportunities, the panelists were in agreement that there is a workforce shortage issue. “We’ve got tremendous challenges,” said Summit Aviation vice president of business development Ryan Waguespack, who chairs the new NATA Workforce Development Committee.
“Our entire industry is worried,” added Duncan.