Analysis: Youth Task Force Presents Daunting Challenges but Energizing Solutions

By Kathryn B. Creedy

15-minute read

Recommendations include:

  • Massive increase in funding for education and aviation/aerospace career promotion and education
  • Recommendations on a variety of funding mechanisms including user fees
  • K-12 content creation for libraries, parents, teachers, guidance counselors
  • Development of aviation-related games and social media
  • Launching aviation/aerospace promotion programs as early as possible
  • Single website for all aviation/aerospace related resources and information
  • Dual enrollment programs for simultaneous high school and college
  • Stackable credentialling
  • Mentoring and career coaching from school through career
  • Education reform to address affordability
  • Professional development to teach the teachers about aviation/aerospace careers
  • National and regional advisory committees to develop and oversee efforts
  • Congressional action to raising funding to nationwide effort
  • FAA regulatory reform of aviation-related training programs
  • Industry cultural reform

The Youth Access to Aviation Jobs in America Task Force (YIATF) set out the herculean tasks needed to turn the great recommendations from its just released report into reality. Reading the YIATF report is as daunting as it is hopeful, but no one said this “moon shot” would be easy.

Yes we can. Women in aviation & aerospace are latter day Rosie the Riverters.

But to get recommendations done will mean industry reform as well since it is one of the biggest obstacles. Industry has called for workforce development programs for years usually pointing at someone else to do the heavy lifting. It, however, must understand we cannot rely on “someone else,” but must gather our forces to what needs to be done ourselves. With its many recommendations, industry must now take up the gauntlet because we know we can do it. All we need is organization.

Private interests from all parts of the industry haven’t waited to create great programs to introduce youngsters to aviation and aerospace, each one recognizing the crisis and asking themselves “what can I do.” The results are incredible and include the National Aviation’s Hall of Fame Learning with Orville and Wilbur done in partnership with PBS and ThinkTV. Industry must have its own political will to do the same.

Task Force Chair Sharon DiVivo acknowledged the difficulties ahead.

“We are not going to solve the workforce shortage by continuing to attract the same people to aviation and aerospace,” she told Future Aviation/Aerospace Workforce (FAAW) News. “The answer to solving this problem is attracting and retaining underrepresented populations. This Task Force has provided a roadmap of action that can change the workforce trajectory for our industry now and over the next 20 years. Some of the suggestions we make are doable now such as creating regional and a national advisory council that allow us to collaborate and define activities and pathways to training, higher education and a career. We know that some of the suggestions we made around financially supporting individuals and organizations, a significant barrier to entry, will take industry leadership and Congressional will to change the outcome for the employees of the future.”

The Plan

Recommendations are at once simple and complex. In a nutshell, the Task Force cited a need for content creation for parents, teachers, guidance counselors, libraries and a one-stop, comprehensive industry internet platform for aviation careers and pathways which connects the dots to education and funding. It also called for the creation of aviation-related gaming and social media and a youth advisory committee well-versed in social media influencers and gamers advising on game developers who could fund and develop aviation-and-aerospace, skill-building games. Indeed, we should take a lesson from the military which has long had this recruitment strategy.

“Creating a virtual world that is helpful in all aspects of aviation and aerospace,” the report said, “and connecting industry, schools/training/higher education, organizations, social media influencers, gamers and employment platforms provides families and educators with the information needed to learn more, and intentionally become members of the aviation and aerospace workforce.”

As important, would be a committee on how to achieve a steady stream of education funding which is now so time-consuming and costly. We rely on student loans, Pell Grants and the cumbersome application process for scholarships and federal aid.

At the very least we should be creating a single scholarship application or, better yet, a digital program matching deserving students with scholarships upon school application.

The Task Force recommended expanding dual enrollment programs so students earn college credits while still in high school, popular with students and parents for defraying rising college costs.

It promoted certifications as a strategy to do the same thing. Gaining aviation-related certifications puts high school graduates into a job where they can leverage corporate higher education benefits to gain a college education. Coupled with this, companies must create corporate pathways for rank-and-file employees to pursue degrees as well as mentoring and coaching programs to ensure success.

To that end, the Task Force recommended working with other industry credentialing agencies to develop high-quality, skill certification programs to achieve stackable credentialing programs starting in high school. They would count toward science and math requirements and lead to credit toward the airframe, powerplant or general certificates for aviation maintenance technicians, uncrewed aerial systems (UAS), flight dispatch and other industry recognized credentials.

The Task Force recommended creating mentoring and coaching programs for students and those already in their careers; important for increasing the diversity of the executive suite. Many organizations such as the Aviation Collective already have such programs but connecting students and employees to them on the Task Force’s digital platform makes them more effective.

Building on Current Programs

As FAAW News reported, few realize educators, states, industry associations, manufacturers, aviation museums, corporations, aviation/aerospace technology corridors and individuals have already developed sophisticated curricula, training and workforce development programs that have exposed millions to manufacturing and aviation/aerospace careers. Just the other day the Girl Scouts, which has long had aviation-related badges, announced a new Aerospace Adventure program in Oklahoma, one of our most aviation education minded states. However, serious reform is needed to accommodate new education delivery methods and emerging technology as the Task Force discusses.

Aviation/Aerospace career programs have never been more accessible given the hundreds of programs listed in FAAW News’s Resources for the Promotion of Aviation/Aerospace Careers as well as its Using the Calendar to Promote Aviation/Aerospace Careers, both free online. In addition, The National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), and others, such as Aviatrix Book Review, have created comprehensive lists of aviation/aerospace related books and activities from pre-school to adults. But this work is a tiny tip of the iceberg compared to the Task Force’s energizing vision.


Creating the infrastructure to make its vision happen presents a more towering challenge. The Task Force depends on Congressional and Federal Aviation Administration action. That’s a problem since they are known for either dysfunctionality or, in the case of the FAA, its own workforce shortages, the loss of experienced regulators and its stunned reaction to the 737-MAX debacle and the pandemic. This has frozen much of its work in place even as industry regulatory needs increase, according to growing industry complaints.

However, should the industry act on its own to form a coalition, it can accomplish what individual organizations have not been able to do – end what the task force calls a “20-year stretch of unprecedented need for qualified employees and a pipeline of young people who either do not know what we have to offer or perceive that the costs of pursuing a career are simply out of reach.”

Indeed, it recommended a broad-based coalition of industry, government, nonprofits and educators. Industry has long resisted such a coalition in favor of promoting their own needs so it will be another challenge to get them to act as one on a crisis everyone shares. However, the fact those interests gathered in the Task Force to develop the ideas necessary to finally solve our workforce problem, is reason for hope.   

Source: Laurel & Michael Evans via Unsplash

A National Advisory Council was recommended by the Task Force under the auspices of FAA’s Aviation and Space Education Program (AVSED) program and supported by regional councils in FAA’s nine regions. The councils would encompass regional stakeholders including airports, airlines, repair stations, business aviation and museums. It would also bring non-profit organizations such as scouting and youth clubs to the table along with education/training providers that includes high schools, colleges and universities, especially minority-serving institutions. Meanwhile, the National Advisory Council would monitor regional efforts, provide information about best practices, design metrics of success and a model for continuous improvement.

Considering this was a FAA committee that makes sense especially since its infrastructure is in place. However, the question remains whether the agency has the energy, staff and innovation necessary for the challenge, whether it will elevate and fund aviation promotion and education from its backwater and whether a government bureaucracy is the best solution at a time when regulatory needs are so great including the regulatory reform called for by the Task Force. We certainly know it does not have the budget and Congress loves unfunded mandates.

A good place to start is the nearly 200 organizations across the industry that urged Congressional creation of the National Center for the Advancement of Aviation (NCAA) – as long as they can check their parochial interests in the baggage compartment.

The risk if we can’t? “Choosing to do nothing will perpetuate the crisis and keep us from reaching new heights with a diverse workforce that will drive innovation and transformation,” DeVivo, who is also president of Vaughn College of Aeronautics & Technology, concluded.


The task force referenced NCAA. H.R. 3482 – the legislation creating the entity – was passed 369 to 56 by the House on Thursday reflecting its popularity but companion legislation – Senate S.1752 – languishes in the ever-growing morass of bills and the ever-shrinking opportunities for bicameral agreement.

But it provides significant hope the industry, which has worked hard to reduce fees and blocked any efforts to raise the passenger facility charge, supported this legislation given its reliance on more user fees or diverting money from the Airport and Airway Trust Fund. Perhaps that is why the Task Force embraced user fees.

It recommended several options for Congressional consideration including establishing a separate fund or redirecting funds within the Airport and Airway Trust Fund using 0.75% specifically to pay for scholarships for aviation and aerospace education and flight training or a $0.10 fee on all commercial US-sold airline tickets that would be used to support building the talent pipeline with scholarships.

The Task Force targeted landing fees, suggesting they be increased to fund scholarships for education and training programs and recommended increasing the Workforce Development Grants from the current $10 million to $50 or $100 million, $50 million of which would create a National Aviation Scholarship Fund.

It also suggested developing corporate incentives using DOT and DOD contracting processes making those that address workforce solutions more competitive. While this would require Congressional action and revising contracts, it calls for 0.25% of all DOD and DOT aviation and aerospace contracts to address aerospace education programs.

The funding available using this approach would be $512.5 million per year based on contracts awarded in 2019, the Task Force estimated. It also proposes increasing to 35% the current 25% tax incentive for donating to nonprofits, noting annual corporate donations to nonprofits reached $20.7 billion including $2.9 billion for overall education.

Having users and industry pay for what needs to be done, begs the question of why we should launder money through Washington since we know it is difficult to claw it out of Congressional hands once it is there.

Aviation and aerospace companies are already investing millions in attracting workforce. Nonprofits are too. The question is whether we can establish how much is already being spent and how much business goes unfulfilled for lack of workforce – in the MRO industry, alone, it is estimated at $1.4 billion. Then we need to calculate the cost of Task Force programs and see if we can raise more.  

Aviation industry associations should poll members to determine this information and identify personnel that can make up the recommended regional advisory committees.

Student Debt

The Task Force called for us to rethink educational affordability, a critical need throughout society. That will mean higher education must address its cost. Since the baby boomers, facilities have exploded into resort-style campuses. Meanwhile, faculty salaries are still shockingly small compared to the value they provide, according to surveys by the University Aviation Association. Critics are right concluding forgiving student debt – as important as that is – does not address this challenge facing students and their families.

But beyond that, the Task Force found loans are now perceived negatively. Headlines over the past 20 years rightfully depict loans as a life-long burden preventing workers from pursuing such fundamental milestones as having a family and buying a house. Other headlines describe the mismanagement of forgiveness programs for public service jobs as well as how student loans have worked against economic success enjoyed by previous generations.

Consequently, said the Task Force, students, especially those from low socioeconomic backgrounds, view the debt-level required and, reluctant to take it on, simply choose a different field.

The double-edged funding solution must first convince those who discover aviation that it is not only doable but affordable and second, develop the funding needed to realize the Task Force recommendations in the first place. For instance, it cited the health care industry provision of monthly cash education benefits to repay student loans.

“Funding is the number one obstacle,” said the report. “Existing funding is not enough to cover all the costs for a student. There is a significant gap between what is funded and what is needed…With additional funding they could close the gap and help more students make it into aviation careers.”

A lot of hot air. Hereford High’s AOPA You Can Fly Program. Credit: AOPA

The Task Force recommended providing expense stipends to enable students to focus on education and training. This would be coupled with other pathway/financial incentives such as scholarships, internships and apprenticeships.

“By lowering the overall debt load for the neediest students, we can provide a lifetime career path with incredible opportunities, as well as another way to drive diversity in the workforce, thus creating more awareness in underrepresented groups,” the report continued. “This could result in a ‘snowball effect’ with a long-term solution for solving the personnel shortage and the lack of diversity in our industry and entails both providing individual financial support to pursue training and education, as well as creating a sustainable funding model for organizations.

That snowball effect is important. DeVivo testified before Congress years ago by focusing on the underprivileged and underrepresented, we transform the trajectory of entire families. Similarly, with the rise of career and technical education (CTE) we can transform local economies. For instance, the creation of new aviation maintenance and flight schools such as newly established programs in West Virginia as well as state emphasis on CTE, coupled with re-shoring initiatives such as that Utah is creating, provides an opportunity to bring local rust belt and fossil fuel economies into the 21st Century.

Educating the Educators

The Task Force offers a ton of great ideas building on the hundreds of programs already working to promote aviation and aerospace careers to youngsters. It also resists reinventing the wheel yet again. Indeed, the report links to those who have already invented the wheel for guidance in how to create similar programs in aviation.

It also links to the effective online and in-class curriculum and teacher continuing education programs such as the AOPA, FedEx, Boeing STEM Symposium set for November and Choose Aerospace Teacher Aviation Maintenance Curriculum National Air and Space Museum’s Teacher Innovator Institute, Teachers Air Camp and Civil Air Patrol’s Teacher Orientation Program Flights. AOPA’s High School program includes teacher flight training.

Its survey of teachers and guidance counselors showed 65% had basic-to-no knowledge of the various aviation careers. And 72% of respondents had basic-to-no knowledge of available aviation and aerospace career resources. That is on top of the 95% of students with no family connection to aviation/aerospace. Thus, the reason for creating digital content in a one-stop shop as well as the creation of by-region aviation/aerospace professional speakers bureau for classrooms. Other recommendations from educators include career days, job fairs and visits from local colleges and vocational schools.”

Task Force surveys report 80% of teachers would attend, especially if Continuing Education Unit (CEU) credits were available. In addition to developing CEU programs, the task force recommended creating connections between K-12 teachers and aviation colleges and universities, state and local aviation and education agencies, aviation museums, airports, aerospace manufacturing facilities and flight training schools.

High School is Too Late

A key conclusion, the 21-member Task Force found was, as suspected, waiting until high school is too late, recommending education start by age 10, and again reinforcing the message at late high school when students are turning interests into career ambitions.

The Task Force suggested the industry sponsor aviation/aerospace related gaming competitions to build on current aviation/aerospace competitions such as American Rocketry Challenge, Aerospace Maintenance Competition, NASAO’s Youth Aviation Art Contest and The Dee Howard Foundation Aviation & Aerospace Art Contest as well as General Aircraft Manufacturers Association’s (GAMA) Aviation Design Challenge, Vertical Flight Society’s Annual Student Design Competition and the National Intercollegiate Flying Association (NIFA) pilot skill events. In addition, it cited the models from business aviation and MRO communities creating special student tracks during their annual conferences. Here again, however, we need funding to would pay travel costs to attend.

It is never to early to introduce kids to aviation and Women in Aviation makes that a reality at its Girls in Aviation Day during its annual conference. Credit: Kathryn B. Creedy

Also recommended was creation of aviation/aerospace-related afterschool programs modeled on 4H and National Future Farmers of America (FFA). The report noted more than 10 million children are enrolled in after-school programs annually with another 25 million on waiting lists.

“After-school programs are not only effective at reducing the numbers of at-risk youth, but are key programs in workforce development pipelines,” said the Task Force. “There is already federal funding for what is known as 21st Century Community Learning Centers [along with] state funding.” The Task Force would also like to see expansion of the FAA Aviation Career Education (ACE) Academy through industry partnerships targeting K-12 students and providing a range of aviation career exploration and STEM experiences.

In addition, the Task Force recommended the creation of “virtual counselors” to guide aspiring aviation professionals through their education and careers citing the work of the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) offering pre-university resources for volunteers and teachers around the globe. It also cited Choose Aerospace Alliance for Aviation Across America and Utah Rotor Pathways, the latter of which gathers high schools and universities to provide helicopter pilot and maintenance training in high school.

The airline industry recently began focusing on Historically Black College and Universities as well as Hispanic-Serving colleges and has increased focus on affiliate groups such as Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals, Gay Pilots Association, Latino Pilots Association, Women in Aviation-International (WAI) among others.

The task force recommended expanding that outreach to partnering with National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and leveraging their local chapters along with those at EAA, AOPA and Civil Air Patrol. The Task Force also recommended working with the hundreds of aviation/space museums around the country to develop programing for parents, students and educators.

Regulatory Reform

The report would be incomplete without a discussion of regulatory reform, especially since government training regulations haven’t changed in 50 years with the singular exception of aviation maintenance.

It recommended review of government regulations, to ensure certification standards are performance-based, something aviation safety experts and airline training professionals have advocated for years. It recommended adapting regulations to allow for skill development and adaptability to new resources and technologies.

But for pilots this, too, is controversial given Air Line Pilots Association steadfast refusal to consider any changes in commercial airline pilot requirements despite the fact regulations actually encourages changes. But this is a lesson for the union – if you can’t be helpful then get out of the way.

Revealingly, like many aviation safety organizations, the Task Force recommended more flight simulation and virtual reality to improve training and ensure more proficiency and competency, a move opposed by unions but favored by aviation safety and training professionals. ALPA has long opposed switching to something widely accepted in the rest of the world – the multicrew pilots license – citing its reliance on simulation. ALPA’s opposition is shocking given the fact that simulators were first created to save pilots lives lost to dangerous inflight maneuvers and the wide-spread recognition that simulators are a key safety tool.  

Other recommendations included the creation of Job Corp and Jobs of the Future Programs for aviation/aerospace.

Task Force Targets Culture

“If we want to retain individuals from underrepresented backgrounds, the industry must not only be committed to outreach and hiring, but also to creating equitable environments so that these same individuals feel psychologically safe and valued as members of the team. This is not a problem that can be solved overnight, and companies need courageous conversations, examinations of policies with a new educated lens, and an ongoing training and education program that allow everyone to learn, make mistakes and move forward. Most importantly, we all need to be accountable and responsible for making change happen by setting measurable goals, publishing our data, sharing our learnings and never stopping the work.”

Future Aviation/Aerospace News, in its Women in Aviation, Aerospace & Defense, cited several studies showing women lag in taking on substantial C-Suite rolls and account for only account for 15% of the 600 positions surveyed by Flightglobal.  

The Women in Aviation Advisory Board (WIAAB) concluded culture is a major problem. It also begs the question as to what, if anything, industry is doing about it beyond rhetoric. For instance, Southwest Airlines is noted for the number of women executives but women from the ops department talk about toxic masculinity. We can recruit women and minorities all we want but if they slam up against the same problems current employees face with discrimination, harassment and toxic workplaces we won’t retain them.

Credit: Mark Stenglein Upsplash

To that end, the Task Force cited a more expansive definition of diversity, a metric to be adopted by anyone wishing to make the rhetoric the industry espouses today meaningful. It quoted Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin who said at a White House Diversity Roundtable in February 2022 said: “I equate diversity with being invited to the dance. Inclusion is actually being asked to dance.”

But the Task Force also cited Dr. Menah Pratt-Clarke, vice president for strategic affairs and diversity and diversity professor of education at Virginia Tech who went further saying: “…belonging is being able to dance to the music that is representative of your background heritage. What those who are on the outside of the dance decision-making team really want is equity. They want to be part of the planning committee, co-selecting the music, co-selecting decorations, not having to wait to be asked to dance… It’s about changing the system and the way in which the dance decision-making process operates. It’s about restructuring practices, procedures, policies, and politics, to create a system that is more wonderful for everyone.”

My conclusion is the same as it was for the landmark WIAAB report. It would be a tragedy for every stakeholder if these initiatives are not realized. YIATF makes clear much of what is needed is already happening and it’s a matter of communicating these resources to parents, educators and kids. Yes, there is much work ahead on content creation, regulatory reform and infrastructure development, but we must ask ourselves whether we can put aside parochial interests and forge the leadership necessary to take the great ideas within the two task force reports and make them happen. The answer must be yes.

Published by Kathryn B. Creedy

Kathryn B. Creedy is a veteran aviation journalist and communications strategist. My byline has appeared in CNN Travel, The Points Guy, BBC Capital, Los Angeles Times, Forbes Online, The Washington Post, Flyer Talk, Business Traveler, Business Travel Executive, Afar, Flightglobal, Centre for Aviation, Aviation Week & Space Technology, Low Fare & Regional Airlines, Inflight, Business Airports International, Airports, Centerlines, Regional Gateway, Runway Girl Network and Metropolitan Airport News among others. In 2018, I was cited for the Sapphire Pegasus Business Aviation Award for her work as a business aviation journalist. Created four newsletters, including two web publications Author: Time Flies - The History of SkyWest Airlines. Consistently received bonuses or commendations throughout my career. Founded Commuter/Regional Airline News, building it to become the bible of the industry. Co-founded C/R Airline News International to cover Europe. Founding editor of Aviation Today's Daily Brief, VLJ Report. Founding Senior Analyst North America for Centre for Aviation and North American Editor for Low Fare & Regional Airlines and Inflight. Key Words: Aviation, travel, business jets, commercial, aircraft, airlines, publishing, public relations, corporate communications, media specialist,

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