May 8, 2019

NBAA’s 2019 Maintenance Conference kicked off with a celebration of rising business aviation professionals, as well as a sense of urgency about continuing to share industry opportunities with young people.

At the beginning of the “Who is the Aircraft Technician of the Future?” opening session, presenter Bob Hobbi, ServiceElements, challenged audience members to consider what drives their passion for the industry, and how they can convey that passion to young people.

“Why should I become a technician? Why get involved with business aviation? Do we have a good answer for what it’s done for us as individuals, for our country and our planet?” Hobbi asked the audience. “We need to be excited about the industry and talk about it at a level that will catch with a 14-year-old.”

Panelists Phil Suglia, Duncan Aviation, and Pat Cunningham, PepsiCo, identified specific workforce challenges including lack of awareness among educators and negative public perceptions about maintenance career paths. In addition to “educating the educators” – empowering guidance counselors, professors and other adults in mentorship positions to inform students about business aviation career paths – Cunningham noted that adjusting messaging to reflect the priorities of today’s young people can pay dividends.

“Studies show the youngest generations care about experiences, and not just a paycheck,” Cunningham said. “There’s a ‘wow’ factor to our industry and we need to tell those stories.”

Following the panel, recipients of this year’s Maintenance AMT Scholarships shared their unique stories. From a former secretary who “went from the office to the shop and [loves] it” to a West African immigrant thriving in his new country, their success stories brought an optimistic angle to the broader workforce discussion.

Introducing this year’s winners, 2018 Maintenance AMT Scholarship recipient Jakub Hnizda emphasized the importance of reaching students early and often. “If information about business aviation wasn’t in the hands of the right guidance counselor, I wouldn’t be in this industry,” he said.

The 2019 scholarship recipients expressed excitement about the opportunities provided by the Maintenance AMT program. For 21-year-old Kristina Andrews, the scholarship represents another step forward in her burgeoning career.

“I’m very excited for the opportunity to continue my training,” said Andrews, who will begin her HTF 7000 Series Maintenance Initial training this fall. “It’s great to be here meeting so many business aviation professionals and learning more about the industry.”

Before celebrating this year’s scholarship winners, audience members were invited to share their own stories and insights about workforce issues.

Noting that a common challenge is bridging the experience gap between new technicians and what business aviation companies need, one participant discussed an extended onboarding program that works with students as they complete A&P school and guarantees employment if they continue with advanced training. Marlin Priest, a member of NBAA’s Maintenance Committee, talked about collaborating with Alabama museums and high schools for initiatives that expose young people to aviation careers.

“We need to tell people the story of business aviation,” concluded Hobbi. “It’s a good story, one that we should be proud of and one that will help future generations find successful career paths.”

Learn more about the 2019 scholarship winners.