Business Aviation Insider nameplate

Management: Externships Benefit Students, Employers

Externships are a two-way street: they give students a real-world taste of business aviation while providing companies with an opportunity to evaluate potential future employees without any obligation. Also, they are a good way for business aviation to attract talent.

While the externship concept isn’t new, the way it is being applied is.

Externships are becoming more flexible. Some colleges offer credit for externships so students can take part almost anytime, not just during academic breaks or vacations. This enables companies to take on externs at times that work best for both the student and the sponsor.

Also, externships can now be shorter and can occur at the sponsor’s convenience, explained Vanessa Renshaw, who manages the externship program at Southern Illinois University (SIU).

“We encourage employers to do a week, but it could also be just a few days. We tell them to look at it as a week-long job interview.”

Vanessa Renshaw Externship Program Manager, Southern Illinois University

“We encourage employers to do a week, but it could also be just a few days,” she said. “We tell them to look at it as a week-long job interview.”

SIU offers externships in aviation management, technology and flight. To qualify, students must have a 2.75 GPA and demonstrate during an interview a respectful attitude, good communication and time management skills, along with a commitment to the program. Overall, “Are they able to carry themselves professionally?” said Renshaw.

More than 4,000 students have participated in the SIU externship program since it was launched in 1984. In 2020, 54 students visited 43 companies, a 59% increase from 2019. SIU’s extern program involves mostly small to mid-size companies.

Business aircraft operators such as Masco, a Michigan-based home building products manufacturer that employs 12 people in its aviation department, have found externships useful. The goal is to have up to five externs per year who are compensated via scholarships, explained the director of aviation. The students come from nearby colleges with aviation programs: Eastern Michigan University, Northwestern Michigan College and Western Michigan University, the aviation director’s alma mater.

“The whole point is to build relationships,” explained the director. However, students must meet certain requirements. High on the list of attributes is personality. “Is there a cultural fit?”

“We also look at grades, extracurricular activities, collegiate aviation fraternity membership,” he added. “Are they progressing through their program, or just being a constant student-pilot? Is there a passion for aviation and, more specifically, a desire to learn more about business aviation? We always ask them, ‘Who’s on your aviation Mount Rushmore?’”

The aviation director noted that Masco’s externship program serves another purpose: It showcases the industry and aviation careers to the upcoming generation, including those less represented, such as women and minorities. “It’s the right thing to do,” he said.

Jo Damato, CAM, NBAA’s vice president of educational strategy and workforce development, noted that externships are important tools to introduce individuals in underrepresented communities to the career possibilities of business aviation.

“Diversity, equity and inclusion are a priority for growing the aviation workforce,” she declared, “and NBAA is committed to this through a number of internal and external initiatives. Diversity attracts diversity.”

March 15, 2023

NBAA Urges Operator Members to Participate in 2023 Compensation Survey

NBAA’s 2023 Compensation Survey is now open, and the association is encouraging all members operating aircraft to contribute and ensure this survey provides the most insightful data on business aviation compensation and retention practices and policies.
Read More

Jan/Feb 2023

Is Business Aviation an Option for Retiring Commercial Airline Pilots?

Recognizing the stark differences between the two worlds is critical to making a successful transition.
Read More

February 8, 2023

Miami-Dade County Announces Funding For New Aviation Career Training Center to Bring Skilled, Diverse Workers Into Essential Industry

At the 2023 NBAA Miami-Opa locka Regional Forum, Miami-Dade County officials announced financial support for a new professional and technical training center, headed by a record-breaking pilot, and focused on preparing students for careers in business aviation and other fields.
Read More

Jan/Feb 2023

New Vets: A Valuable Business Aviation Resource

While business aviation struggles to meet workforce demands, many organizations may be missing out on valuable personnel who are about to separate from the military.
Read More