Nov. 9, 2020

A diverse workforce is essential for the industry’s future success, however, in a field like aircraft maintenance it can be a challenge to appeal to workers when the talent pool is dominated by men. A recent NBAA News Hour webinar examined this issue and focused on how to attract a broader segment of the student population to a career in this sector of business aviation.

“It is important to get in front of young people to let them know that aviation is an option for them,” said Laura Scanlan, director of fleet maintenance at Executive Jet Management and president of Women in Corporate Aviation. “For aviation maintenance, in particular, just making young people aware that this is a choice could be a gamechanger for them.”

Emily Kennedy, a student at Aviation Institute of Maintenance, said the business aviation industry should consider outreach to students of all ages and must tailor the educational experience accordingly.

“[Industry professionals] should be going into elementary schools. Young children are like sponges, they want to soak up as much knowledge as they can and explore different things, which is a great opportunity to increase diversity,” Kennedy said. “But remember, don’t just talk about aviation, bring them on a field trip, show them a hangar or an airport to let them experience exactly what it’s like.”

Education must also extend to parents, advised Lynze Price, an aircraft technician at Amway Aviation. “A child may be excited about a career in aviation maintenance, but the parents could see this choice as somewhat outside of the ordinary. If we open our facilities to the parents by offering tours, we can show them, too, what the career entails and help them understand the skills and benefits aviation maintenance can bring.”

The perception of aircraft maintenance must be addressed, too, said the webinar’s moderator Stewart D’Leon, director of technical operations at NBAA.

“The field of aircraft maintenance has evolved so much. It has always required highly-skilled workers, but we have gone from aircraft that were cable driven to aircraft that are built around fly-by-wire systems, where much of our troubleshooting now is done with a laptop,” he noted. “In business aviation, an aircraft maintainer is a serious career that can be very advantageous.”

The panel noted that business aviation can leverage its advantages to attract a more diverse workforce. The size of flight departments relative to commercial airlines, for instance, gives the industry the flexibility to adapt cultures more effectively and efficiently to welcome a diverse workforce. The sense of community that drives the success of many business aviation maintenance departments also can provide the inclusion that is essential for diversity to thrive.

Also, the personal relationship business aviation operators have with their clients can also give technicians an opportunity to experience the results of their efforts more closely than they would working at a larger organization.

Diversifying the workforce is also essential, especially because, as Scanlan noted, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find and retain talented and motivated workers.

“Talent is talent, and it doesn’t matter what it looks like,” she noted. “Adding people that look different to your workforce just means getting more talents and it can help break down old ways of thought and nothing ever gets better if it doesn’t change.”

Diversity and inclusion also help businesses make better decisions and adapt to a client base that itself is evolving. “With a lack of diversity, you can create an environment where everyone takes the same actions for the same reasons,” said Price. “By introducing diversity, you can introduce a creative breakthrough that brings out more innovation and an even better appreciation of the customer.”