Workforce shortages are looming – in the cockpit, and in aircraft maintenance and avionics, manufacturing, and engineering. Several factors are contributing to the difficulty of finding and retaining flight crews, including competition from the airlines, career discouragement, the cost of training, new regulations, and continuing growth in business aviation (See “Sticky Business” BAA May/June, 2019).

And hiring your next pilot or technician is not just about numbers. Today’s candidates are less willing to risk their current position to interview for yours. More experienced crew members expect more than just a salary increase – they are concerned about quality of life issues (See “Sudden Dearth” BAA July/August 2018).

These factors make it critical for the business aviation industry to motivate more young people to select aviation as a career.

Many retiring flight crew members entered the industry by way of the military. The government paid for their training and experience, making the transition to bizav and airline cockpits relatively simple and affordable.

That pipeline, while strong, was restricted – not by law, but by tradition and bias. And, as in other conventional male vocations, women were not recruited nor encouraged to pursue a pilot or technical career. Very few did. During WWII, women in aviation were welcomed, based only on a wartime demand for able hands to address a shortage of qualified males.

Fortunately, those restrictions have loosened, culturally and generationally, just in time to help address this 21st century shortage. More women recognize the growing opportunities to pursue aviation careers, at the same time more business aircraft owners recognize the wisdom of not restricting their recruiting efforts to half the population. A woman turning a wrench or a yoke no longer is an anomaly, and may well be the best qualified candidate as your next flight crew member or ground crew chief.

Opportunities in the aviation industry, and specifically in business aviation, never have been more robust for the next generation of aviation professionals. But how to find them?

Women in Aviation International (WAI) is a nonprofit organization “dedicated to the encouragement and advancement of women in all aviation career fields and interests.” It offers resources such as Jobs Connect and Mentor Connect to assist women of all ages to pursue their aviation dreams. Recently WAI commissioned the “Women in Aviation Workforce Report,” funded by a NASA Nebraska Space Grant. It found that women represent:

  • Fewer than 10% of many occupations in aviation
  • Just 5% of total airline pilots, and only 1.5% of airline captains 
  • 2.4% of aviation maintenance workers 
  • Approximately 7.8% of aerospace engineers
  • And 16.6% of accredited airport managers.

As an executive who relies on business aviation for the profitable operation of your company, you recognize that a shortage of trained and dedicated individuals to fly, fix, insure, and buy and sell your company’s aviation assets will have a negative impact on your ability to continue to travel according to your business requirements. And that will have an impact on your bottom line. These data will assist in targeting recruiting and retention efforts to meet your growing staffing needs.

Women in Aviation International Responds

For the past 30 years, WAI has been dedicated to providing networking, mentoring, and scholarship opportunities for women and men who are striving for challenging and fulfilling careers in the aviation and aerospace industries. WAI’s nearly 14,000 members include astronauts, pilots (general aviation, airline, business aviation, and military), maintenance technicians, air traffic controllers, business owners, educators, journalists, flight attendants, high school and university students, air show performers, airport managers, and others.

A growing network of 130 chapters around the world helps WAI members connect with one another in their local community. Chapter members gather for aviation-related events, support local outreach programs, fundraise, and socialize. Along with WAI’s scholarship program, which has supported 2,000 individuals with $12.5 million since 1996, these efforts are critical for those seeking aviation careers, as the cost to earn a commercial pilot rating required for business turbine aircraft is prohibitive for many.

Almost every pilot remembers the first time she or he looked skyward and felt the desire to fly. Now that career is open to women as never before. However, since one’s career path often is set by high school or college, WAI recognizes the importance of reaching girls and introducing them to the variety of aviation careers at an early age. And now is the time to pursue those careers.

WAI’s most recent initiative, Girls in Aviation Day, will mark its fifth year on October 5, 2019, and is estimated to reach 25,000 participants at more than 125 events for girls ages 8-17. In just four years, Girls in Aviation Day has expanded from 39 events and approximately 3,800 youngsters to last year’s 101 different events and 15,000 participants.

These unique local events, hosted by WAI chapters and corporate members within the U.S. and worldwide, provide an opportunity for attendees to visit airports, museums, FBOs, and other aviation-related venues to see and learn first-hand about all the opportunities in aviation and aerospace. WAI provides special materials including an annual publication, Aviation for Girls magazine, along with an aviation career brochure. 

Hands-on activities allow young girls to learn about air traffic control, parts of a plane and helicopter; fly simulators; read a sectional chart; operate drones; and many other related topics. Lacking familiarity or exposure, many girls never considered an aviation career, and the ability to meet role models – actual working pilots and mechanics – is crucial.

What You Can Do

Your future pilots, technicians, avionics designers, aviation insurance agents, and all those who support your corporate flight department just may get their first taste of aviation at a Girls in Aviation Day event. Encourage the girls in your life to find out more at www.wai.org/events/girls-aviation-day-2019.

Recognizing the need for corporate support, this year, WAI Corporate members JetLinx and Signature Flight Support have offered their facilities across their worldwide network to support Girls in Aviation Day. Their partnership with WAI will help increase this special outreach event, allowing girls to see how business aviation supports the national transportation system. To learn more about hosting a Girls in Aviation Day event at your corporate location, contact Molly Martin at mmartin@wai.org.

WAI also has a free job-posting section on its website for corporate members to use. WAI “Jobs Connect” puts your own corporate aviation positions in front of WAI’s nearly 14,000 members. Make sure that your flight department, management company, or fractional operator is using this tool, to ensure that you have the highest-quality aviation professionals on staff, available when you need to fly.

WAI is committed to making sure your corporate flight department is well-staffed now and in the future with dedicated, motivated employees. Visit www.wai.org for more information, including how to become a corporate member. BAA

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