Oct. 19, 2023

To help grow the industry workforce, 2023 NBAA Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (NBAA-BACE) presented Collegiate Connect, a series of panel discussions and educational sessions aimed at sharing job search and networking strategies with college students while connecting them with recruiters.

About 100 students attended the event, where they received valuable guidance on career development directly from young professionals (YoPros) in business aviation, while also engaging with exhibitors at NBAA-BACE.

NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen reminded the students that the industry has a rich tradition of fostering new and innovative aviation technology. “Business aviation is driving the future of electric aircraft and sustainable aviation fuel to help the industry reach its goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050,” Bolen said. “This is where it happens.”

Business aviation generates more than 1 million jobs nationwide across many different disciplines in addition to being a pilot – including scheduling/dispatching, aircraft maintenance, marketing, sales, communications, accounting, law and graphic design.

“We’re here to ask you to consider making your job, your career, your life about business aviation,” Bolen said. “This industry offers a magnificent way of life and I hope you’ll want to be a part of it.”

‘YoPro Secrets to Success’

During a panel discussion titled, “YoPro Secrets to Success,” recipients of NBAA’s Business Aviation Top 40 Under 40 award offered lessons they learned early on in their careers.

“Don’t put a lot of pressure on yourself. Don’t let failure stop you. Figure out what you did wrong and try again,” said panelist Joe Peebles, owner JP Aerotechnics, which provides maintenance services for business jets. “You can do anything that you want in this industry.”

Panelist Matt Simmonds, a pilot for PepsiCo, said students should “commit to making the best decision you can, with the information you have at the time.”

“These students are benefiting from an incredible wealth of knowledge at this event,” said Jo Damato, CAM, NBAA senior vice president, education, training and workforce development. “We want them to have a good understanding of the wide spectrum of opportunities available to them in business aviation and then we want to show them ways to open doors to potential job opportunities.”


Another session focused on the value of networking, where students chose from nine career categories and then met with YoPros from those fields to get detailed guidance on potential career paths.

Graduate student Shauntel Clarke said her school – Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University – encouraged her to attend Collegiate Connect. “It’s a great opportunity to expose yourself to people who are young and who like being a part of this space,” Clarke said. “I want to find network connections and build a group of people that you’re actually going to be working with later on in life.”

Later, the students toured the NBAA-BACE exhibit floor to meet with exhibitors, and also attended the first-ever NBAA Career Fair at NBAA-BACE, which provided the students a golden opportunity to speak directly with recruiters who are hiring for active job openings.

“I’m here to get involved,” said Collegiate Connect participant Madison Seymour, an Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University junior. “I’ve reached out to people that I met last year at NBAA-BACE to reconnect and catch up – almost like a family reunion. I see a lot of familiar faces, but I’ve also met a lot of new people along the way.”

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