Making Aviation/Aerospace Workforce Programs More Effective

Credit: SpaceX Upsplash

By Kathryn B. Creedy

12-minute read

  • Workforce development programs not as effective as they should be
  • Tectonic social & economic shifts are driving workforce changes
  • Companies add social justice to social responsibility for more success
  • Aviation & Aerospace lag behind other industries
  • How to build the cultural shifts needed for tomorrow’s workforce

Crowd Sourcing Alert: Do you have a program we should know about? Contact kcreedy@futureaviationaerospaceworkforce.com

“Two years ago, we realized our inability to meet workforce needs was having a negative impact on our financial results,” said AAR CEO John Holmes, expressing concern on Covid’s impact. “My concern, in the middle of this crisis, is the momentum and success we had in building our program is being lost. I’m concerned people are leaving the workforce to other industries and retirement. I’m concerned aviation programs in colleges won’t be as attractive and that pipeline of talent coming into the colleges will dry up. If that happens, when the demand comes back in two-to-three years we could find ourselves in a bigger shortfall. It is important, as hard as it may be through this crisis, to continue to expand these programs and create more partnerships with community colleges so that pipelines stay intact.”

His concerns are well founded. ARSA’s maintenance, repair & overhaul members were leaving $1.4 billion on the table annually for lack of employees. Regional cargo carriers were also turning away new business. But this is not just about pilots or AMTs. It is about data analysts, engineers, dispatchers, air traffic controllers, demographers and any number of other disciplines in aviation and aerospace.

The problem is, while aviation and aerospace workforce development programs number in the hundreds if not thousands, they could be far more effective by collaborating. It is clear the aviation and aerospace industries are not connecting the dots, judging from their lack of participation in important resources that would amplify their efforts and make them more competitive with industries that have already surpassed us.

Observers question whether industry grasps the impact of social changes on what consumers, stockholders and employees are now demanding of businesses. After realizing we will never reach our workforce targets without thinking outside the traditional pipeline and education boxes, industry is targeting under-represented, under-employed and at-risk people.

What is also clear is embracing social changes is good for business and is driving wholesale human resource and aviation education changes as well as definitions of success.

Doing well by doing good

Indeed, one company traded Ebitda and key-performance-indicator discussions for leadership issues described as building a culture of trust and responsibility allowing employees to drive cultural changes.

Numerous studies show why this is good business. “Consumers and employees are now looking for more than Corporate Social Responsibility,” a recent Harvard Business Review  (HBR) reported. “They’re looking for Corporate Social Justice. Consumers and other stakeholders want companies that see social good as a necessity, not just a marketing strategy. It’s up to companies to respond to this new challenge.” 

The World Economic Forum agrees, saying diversity and sustainability are key parts of, not only consumer, but investor strategy. Consumers will pay a premium to companies echoing their values, according to recent studies showing sustainability, and now social justice, drive premium results. The Carlysle Group found companies with higher diversity have nearly 12% more earnings growth per year than the average company that lacked diversity, according to Nasdaq.

The HBR report added: “Research shows companies with effective Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs are more profitable than those that aren’t.  Over the last 50 years, corporations have relied on these programs, which include social issue marketingphilanthropic efforts, employee volunteer initiatives and diversity and inclusion work, to build their brands and satisfy customers.”

Shareholders are looking at the social justice agenda of corporations, according to the World Economic Forum, showing the difference between being successful and ensuring all stakeholders are successful.

Society’s expectations towards business are rising and companies are increasingly aware of them and making it part of core business strategy, said WEF. 

gray airplane illustration
Credit: Alex Powell on Pexels.com

“Amazingly – as a consequence, not as a goal – they have enjoyed great economic success. Instead of calculating, they bet that unconditional care for their ecosystem members would organically lead to fair profits and it has worked for these altruistic companies for decades, including during the COVID pandemic.”

See it to be it

Part of that change is being driven by millennials and GenZers, who not only want better work/life balance, which clashes with antiquated work rules, but value a job that makes a difference over higher salary.

All these tectonic shifts in human relations require a wholesale culture change that trades a top down mentality for inclusion and collaboration. For this, it will be critical to engage new partners such as the Organization for Black Aerospace Professionals. It also requires broadening hiring to include differently abled, senior and LGBTQ workers.

The culture change required to ensure this time is different was described as a “just culture” by AAR Corporation’s Vice President Workforce Development Ryan Goertzen.

Aviation & Aerospace Not Competitive

“Other industries are way ahead of us in workforce development, so we need to work together to ensure we have a vibrant workforce filled with skilled people,” said Goertzen.

Source: AAR Corporation

In fact, many industries from building trades to automotive, have done much more to accommodate workforce changes.

For example, just taking women’s progress, which exceeds those from other under-represented groups, only 14% of the roles surveyed across the top 100 airlines had female incumbents in early October this year, according to a recent Flightglobal report.

Thirty percent of mid-sized firms in different industries have women CFOs compared to 15% at top airlines, according to Grant Thornton’s Women in Business 2020 report. Only 4% of COO roles at airlines are women compared to 18% in the wider economy with similar results for CIO 13% versus 16%. But none of these percentages shout success by any means.

Many acknowledge the industry’s first problem is aviation’s image.

“We need to align the entire industry to the workforce discussion,” Goertzen said. “Our first problem is marketing opportunities in aviation and aerospace to the high school guidance counselor. You have to make it easy for them to explain to students and parents the potential for high-quality, high-paying jobs. You have to talk about the greatness of aviation careers and the fact the best is still in front of us. SpaceX, for instance, is bringing back human space flight. And, before Covid, the industry was the most financially successful it has ever been.”

Future & Active Pilot Advisors agrees and that is why its Career Resource Center for Guidance Counselors is so important.

Industry workforce development programs now target new demographics, under-represented communities and military transition programs and AAR is a perfect example of how a broader social justice agenda works to lift people out of poverty and into high-quality, high-paying careers. The company has made significant changes to its workforce development team to ensure it retains and grows talent adding a new VP maintenance workforce development, a new director of talent management, a new MRO Group VP of HR and two new leadership instructors to support maintenance and engineering services

Source: AAR Corporation

“The Eagle Career Pathway Program was launched for two reasons – as a marketing tool for the schools to use to deliver the message of aviation careers and then to develop pathway programs to AAR,” Goertzen told FA/AW News. “Prior to COVID it was working very well. Students were signing up in their last year of school and we were starting the mentorship side of the program that exposed them to careers beyond the technician that an Airframe & Powerplant certificate would lead to. I think that COVID has changed the way that we think about everything when it comes to the work environment.” 

It’s first program, developed in only four months, partnered with Olive Harvey College, is an impressive effort that started on the south side of Chicago, one of the most desperately poor areas in the country.

“This program focused on aviation sheet metal in a 60-day program which provided an opportunity for those not destined for the traditional two-to-four-year college,” Goertzen said in a recent Eva International Media podcast. “We wanted to help them transition to a career they never thought about.”

Another example is a new collaboration between the Cuban-American National Council (CNC) and Pan Am International Flight Academy in Miami exposing at-risk youth to airline training and the aviation industry.

Both are important since 33% of high school graduates are not college-bound, according to Great Schools.org. It also coincides with the growing call for shorter workforce training programs to transition those laid off with new career paths. In response, industry is developing boot camps, preparing students for higher-paying careers in 12-to-15 weeks, while just-in-time training as well as on-demand training programs are emerging. Guild Education recently developed Next Chapter for displaced workers while Microsoft launched a digital skills training program targeting 25 million worldwide by leveraging data to match in-demand skills to education programs, according to a recent EdSurge Report. Aviation and Aerospace should be there as well.

Public, private, education partnerships

“After the Eagle program, we started to work with Embry Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) setting up its first maintenance Skillbridge program – a nine-week program at Camp Lajeune to help active-duty military transition to the civilian workforce,” Goertzen continued. “These programs were designed to help these students transition to us quickly.”

The Skillbridge program, run by Department of Defense, Department of Transportation and other federal agencies, is widely known in the industry.

One of AAR’s most important efforts was transitioning furloughed workers as suggested by Aerospace Industries Association CEO Eric Fanning at the very beginning of the pandemic, saying workers will feel more loyalty toward a company helping to find them new jobs.

“We partnered with Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin, who were still hiring,” Goertzen explained. “They took up the slack for us because we were not hiring. That is the dynamic of the industry right now. We are all in this together and we must help each other while we help our workers. We recognize there needs to be rightsizing but helping our folks find opportunities in our other facilities and the broader industry is what we’ve aways done. We know the industry values our employees. Investment in people helps you on the attrition side.”

Another program targets one of the most important groups – those who do not have an education, are under-employed or, as Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance Executive Director Nikki Malcom added, the formerly incarcerated. The idea is to let them know they can transition to an aviation career without having to invest a lot in school.

“It’s about investing on the front end to show people aviation is a viable career path while recognizing what we can do now is to keep as many as we can on payroll because we are concerned tremendous amounts of knowledge is leaving the industry,” said Goertzen

“AAR also has a summer internship program to expose students to a global aerospace company and the various careers that are critical to our success,” he added. “Education and training is the pathway to generational change. That is why I use any chance I can get to tell people to get into aviation.”

Source: Choose Aerospace

It is no surprise, then, that Goertzen, once president of Spartan College, is now president of Choose Aerospace, a new organization under the auspices of the Aviation Technical Education Council (ATEC), to expand recruitment and training of the next generation aviation and aerospace professionals. Importantly, he brings aviation education insights that are an essential part of workforce development programs. AAR and many industry associations including ARSA and AIA, are also working with Congress on workforce development, government funding and changes to aviation curriculum and teaching which needs critical support before a new Congress convenes.

“Most federal agencies are engaged in workforce issues and I find it is the great unifier in Washington,” said Goertzen. “I think Choose Aerospace is uniquely suited to help bring our industry together.  In the 2018 FAA Reauthorization Bill, Section 625 entirely focused on workforce.  The Youth and Women in Aviation task forces are examples of bringing the industry together with a central focus. Aerospace was in a workforce crisis prior to COVID and we will be once again as the industry recovers.  We must remain focused on expanding the pathway to aviation with a focus on under-represented populations.” 

Leveraging well-developed resources

International Association of Women Airline Pilots

Still aviation and aerospace industries could be working with associations within the diversity community such as Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP), Latino Pilots Association, National Gay Pilots Association and the International Society of Women Airline Pilots (ISA+21) for important insights on how to change the culture and work rules that now represent barriers to recruitment and retention, as FA/AW reported recently. In fact, OBAP’s Courageous Conversations Series is required listening.

Boeing’s Return to Flight program is a great example of how we can tap new markets and will take on new importance post Covid.

National Gay Pilots Association

A quick survey tells the story, especially for aerospace companies and their associations. Airlines, unions and business aviation are well represented as corporate sponsors although their participation depends on the group. Women in Aviation International is very popular, confirming diversity, so far, is largely defined by addressing women. Meanwhile, corporate sponsorships at National Gay Pilots Association and Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals pale by comparison.

The National Business Aircraft Association, Helicopter Association International, National Air Traffic Controllers Association and Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association have all connected the dots, especially for women. In Europe, signatories to the Women in Aviation & Aerospace Charter represent both aviation and aerospace well, although again there are few associations except the European Regions Airline Association and Royal Aeronautical Society. Advancing Minorities Interests in Engineering (AMIE), a consortium of 12 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) Deans of Engineering, has numerous aerospace industry sponsors. But NBAA, HAI, NATCA and Royal Aeronautical Society show the importance of tapping all resources, not just the traditional.

Four issues are at the root of workforce problems. First, is failure to tap resources already out there that could amplify efforts. Second tapping untraditional markets for employees. Third, is the failure to sell aviation/aerospace to kids. Fourth is addressing the barriers to recruitment and retention. The industry is on the cusp of addressing all these issues but collaboration will be the key to success.

Crowd Sourcing Reminder: Do you have a program we should know about? Contact kcreedy@futureaviationaerospaceworkforce.com

AvWeek Pilot Webinar Reveals Career, Training Concerns

By Kathryn B. Creedy

Credit: Republic Airways
  • Airlines are not the only piloting career
  • Freight, business aviation doing well
  • Growing interest in flight training, small aircraft
  • Training companies adapt
  • Advanced Air Mobility may impact demand
  • Furloughs impact recurrent training
  • Resources to help pilots cope

Hat tip to Aviation Week for Friday’s webinar looking at the pandemic’s impact on pilot supply and flight training. While all agreed the short-term pain for airline pilots is huge, speakers agreed, long-term prospects are robust and aspiring pilots have opportunities given accelerating retirements at airlines. Speakers also offered suggestions to keep students and furloughed pilots going.

Senior Air Transport & Safety Editor Sean Broderick noted recruiting at commercial airlines will be tougher when asked about the attractiveness of a piloting career.

“While airlines are suffering other segments of the aviation industry are not,” he told listeners, adding IFALPA (International Federation of Air Line Pilot Associations) said it doesn’t expect to do recruiting for the next two years. “Freight is not doing too bad nor is business aviation. There is more opportunity there than at the airlines. You may see that this level of disruption means business aviation will come out of this pandemic with more momentum which will create a few more challenges for airline recruiters.”

And rising training costs for sectors, including regional cargo airlines, doing well.

Credit: Shutterstock

Broderick noted moves to support flight schools. “Embry Riddle has no long-term concerns and has seen no drop in interest,” he said. “We are still going to need pilots and flight schools and we need them to survive until we get to recovery. The smart money will help support these programs in the short term. Industry is going to have to be more resourceful than it has been in the past.”

Indeed, aviation universities have long reported growing interest in aviation careers, including pilots.

He pointed out there is additional access to capital for flight training with L3 Harris reporting private equity interest in the sector.

“We are going to need a lot of pilots,” he said. “A year ago, we were doing stories on airlines setting up their own pipeline programs and financial institutions providing loans. We are going to need more of that, and aspiring pilots will want more security when they think about airlines because this situation will be fresh in their minds.”

His comments have been born out on several fronts. The National Business Aviation Association recently reported more than half of respondents to its annual Compensation Survey returned to work in June. AvWeek reported an uptick in flight school demand along with a growing interest in acquiring aircraft. The General Aviation Manufacturer’s Association reports turboprops are leading deliveries while business aviation OEMs see heightened interest in small business jets such as the Embraer Phenom 300, HondaJet and below.

Pilot Supply Debate Continues

Pilot supply, always the subject of lively debates, historically has seen airline pilots and industry taking different sides. Despite the outlook for pilots, some do not agree there’s a rosy picture, including British Air Line Pilots Association which said it is discouraging aspiring aviators from pursuing an airline career. 

This, I think, is short sighted. As Broderick pointed out airlines are not the only aviation job out there. Second, by the time these kids finish with their training we will be in recovery. Third is the impact of accelerated retirements. Fourth, even pilots suggest the reason there was a lull in interest in piloting or aviation careers between 1980 to 2015 is because pilots did nothing but complain about their careers given the impact of deregulation and recessions. The fact is the industry has flirted with many pilot shortages over the decades dodging them because of the economy or 9/11. This is a cyclical industry with recessions as regular as clockwork – about every decade. Even in good times, pilots point out, those who fly 80 hours a month often have second careers.

Even so, automation is threatening future prospects, according to Aviation Consultant Brian Foley, who makes strong arguments that by the end of Boeing’s 20-year forecast, automation will be taking over.

“These forecasts do not take into account the technological progress being made in semi- and fully-autonomous flight,” said Foley.

Foley, who writes extensively on aviation, pointed to the Large Unmanned Cargo aircraft under development and those already fielded by the U.S. military, predicting military will be the first to shed crews.

“Drones are moving even more quickly towards flight autonomy, including military versions and those used by delivery services like Amazon, Walmart and others as well as Garmin’s Autoland technology,” he said. “It won’t take a special, clean-sheet aircraft design to accommodate this but instead a retrofit of the existing fleet.”

Pilot Forecasts

Broderick indicated before the pipeline can start flowing again for airlines, aircraft utilization must rise and for that we need demand recovery. While predictions for that are four to five years, he indicated vaccine results followed by successful distribution, could build the confidence needed for higher demand, quickening recovery.

Source: CAE Pilot Outlook 2020

Two recent forecasts predict the aviation industry will face challenges in populating the flight deck, including the recent CAE report, based on pilot retirements and fleet growth of 11,000 new aircraft, showing a need for 27,000 pilots for airlines and business aviation through late next year and 264,000 by 2030. It also suggested traffic will return to 2019 levels in 2022.

While lowering its pilot demand forecast from 2019, Boeing still sees a need for 605,000 pilots in the next two decades. Cowen Securities reported 12,000 pilots at US major carriers are due for retirement in the next five years and expected airlines, to save money, will “juniorize” the flight deck by offering retirement incentives.

“There is no question the seniority lists at airlines will look very different,” said Broderick, noting this presents opportunities for remaining pilots to upgrade.

Congressional and Regulatory Reporter Ben Goldstein said, in the US, only American was forced to impose 1600 involuntary furloughs, beyond the 821 pilots opting for early retirement. Meanwhile the rest of the industry worked with unions to avoid such moves with 450 United pilots, 640 Southwest pilots and 500-600 Delta pilots taking buyouts. Indeed, AvWeek recently published an excellent article on the subject reporting 3.8% of commercial pilots are expected to retire or leave the profession each year for the next decade.

Goldstein said those carriers having reached deals with pilot groups, pledged to protect jobs until July ’21 (United) and January ‘22 (Delta).

Should another CARES payroll protection program pass Congress, Goldstein explained, these agreements are void and pilots would return to their previous rates. Airlines are required to recall furloughed pilots and pilot groups have provided for a full snap back to pre-crisis pay and rules once demand reaches certain thresholds.

Recurrent Training Burden

Concerns ripplng through the aviation industry focus on pilot pay which has been rising exponentially with the shortage, especially at regionals. It is probably too soon to tell whether the law of supply and demand will diminish pilot pay short term outside of the airline industry.

In the meantime, airlines are pulling several levers to avoid the massive currency training needs once recovery happens.

Jens Flottau, executive editor commercial aviation, reported Lufthansa is betting on part-time work, keeping pilots flying but giving them a pay cut with reduced hours. It also suspended all training even for the 700 cadets already in the program.

“They told cadets if you don’t manage to secure a job with Lufthansa within five years you’ll have to pay back the training costs in one piece which can be as much as €100,000,” he said, noting cadet training has been disrupted elsewhere. “If they do get a job with Lufthansa, they are given a loan to pay it back over time.”

“A lot of pilots are flying less because of the airline deals,” said Goldstein. “Airlines are relying on cutting hours and schedules as well as early retirements to reduce labor costs and avoid involuntary furloughs. These agreements benefit pilots and airlines because it keeps them flying and they are able to maintain pilots, saving hiring and training costs. That’s a win/win.”

Others, like Emirates are offering 1,000 pilots a year of unpaid leave to keep them available as traffic returns.

Training providers are also adapting, according to Senior Editor Business and Commercial Aviation Bill Carey.

“They have developed online tools with live access to instructors to fill the gap as well as relying more on simulator training versus actually flying the aircraft,” he said. “All this is affected by the inability to get to locations and social distancing standards.”

Broderick described the airline conundrum. “Airlines don’t want to pay pilots to sit around,” he said. “Airlines and pilots want to fly as much as possible. At the same time, the cost to retrain pilots is significant. ALPA is wondering whether airlines are using Covid as an excuse to stretch out training intervals and it does not favor such extensions. But airlines are doing as well as they can to mitigate the risk.”

Flottau pointed to a recent IATA study saying airlines are handling currency issues well.

The massive fleet retirements prompted a huge training task as pilots who once flew the 747, 757, A380, MD80, 717, 767 will need retraining. Alaska Airlines is already training A320 pilots on its Boeing aircraft, said Goldstein.

“Fleet retirements have a cascading effect on training pilots on different fleet types so there is a series of moves that have to happen which are very costly,” he said. “That is part of the equation in terms of training costs.”

Resilient Pilots

Carey spoke of a new program to help pilots weather the pandemic. Called Resilient Pilot, on which he reported recently. (Subscription required) The program was developed to provide free pilot mentoring service connecting experienced pilots with cadets and other pilots.

Credit: Resilient Pilot

“In October, Resilient Pilot had 50 volunteer mentors and 150 mentees in the UK,” Carey reported. “Resilient Pilot also works with the training industry to help pilots remain current. It focuses on the core competencies as defined by ICAO. Importantly, it also talks about pilot mental well being connecting pilots with each other for support. This is just one of the concepts organizations are developing in response to what is happening during the pandemic and to see commercial pilots through this.”

Its ‘Resilient Pilot Flightplan’ provides pilots with support and guidance to ensure they are fully prepared and equipped to return safely to the flight deck focusing on three main elements: Core Competencies, Wellbeing and Diversity.

Mentoring has been identified across the industry as one of the most important initiatives for active, furloughed student pilots. Most professional associations and nearly all of the aviation diversity groups such as Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals, Latin Pilots Association, the National Gay Pilots Association, Women in Aviation International have mentor programs. Airlines and aviation schools have partnered to develop mentor programs as part of their classroom-to-flight deck pathway programs helping them pursue, and stick with, their careers.

All in all, prospects for pilots look good long term. We just have to get there. In the meantime, pilots are pursuing plan Bs, according to Franment Owner Marie Rogers, who reported a uptick in franchise interest from pilots who want something to fall back on during downturns. All things considered, that’s probably a good idea regardless of the pandemic.

What’s Wrong with Aviation/Aerospace Diversity Strategies?

By Kathryn B. Creedy

10-minute read

Credit: Fly for the Culture
  • Why diversity programs fail
  • Study reveals men still don’t get it
  • Covid’s impact on women’s careers
  • Will Covid force diversity efforts to take back seat?
  • Diversity in corporate best interest
  • Recommendations for success

We already know 2020 is a watershed year, but what is less clear is the fact, with Covid, the aviation & aerospace industries risk the loss of the little progress made toward gender, racial and sexual orientation diversity and the profitability, creativity, engagement and loyalty that goes with it.

A new report – Propelling a Gender Balanced Diversity – published November 11, details not only why the industry has not made more progress with diversity and makes recommendations on how to move the needle.  

While the report focused on gender, lessons learned benefit any diversity effort because it is all about intention, mindfulness and C-Suite commitment to change. Indeed, the report’s first recommendation is not to start with a women’s strategy at all but by creating a purpose for all. No single diversity group represents more than 10% of the industry workforce.

“To achieve meaningful transformation, organizations need to find an inclusive purpose that everyone can identify with,” authors said.  “Women are not the issue. Inclusion is. The passion behind the purpose for change needs to come from the top. We found, despite much effort, there are still clear disparities in people’s perceptions, experiences and opportunities to progress. In many cases, these are gender-related but they also extend to other under-represented groups. This does not rule out having dedicated strategies for specific challenges or investigating why women and other groups are under-represented but it is overwhelmingly clear that people need to unite behind purpose.”

This has never been more important.

In a recent webcast, Women in Aviation & Aerospace Charter (WiAAC), which commissioned the report by Korn Ferry, said one of the first concerns with Covid raised among members, was its impact on women.

Falling away

One startling statistic from a US study reflects the gravity of the crisis. The participation rate for women in the labor force in the US dropped below 55% in April, something not seen in 33 years.

A study by the National Women’s Law Center found 1.1 million US workers ages 20+ dropped out in August and September, 850,000 of which were women, four times higher than men. The unemployment rate for women of color in the US was more than 11%, said NWLC, compared to unemployment rates for white men and women at nearly 7%.

The economic impact of working moms’ coronavirus-related anxiety ws estimated at $341 billion by Dr. Laura Sherbin, an economist and managing director of Culture@Work, who cited the difficulty to engage fully in work. While companies are responding with support including tutors, flextime and child care, it is creating new challenges because workers are clearly not being supported enough.

Will diversity take a back seat?

WiAAC members also questioned whether the economic crisis would curtail diversity and inclusion efforts.

10 ways to get more women into aviation/aerospace

Founder and Co-Chair Sumati Sharma, acknowledging the economic impact of Covid, noted some initiatives cost nothing while others will require investment.

The report comes at an opportune time since, Covid is not the only tectonic shift raising the stakes in diversity efforts.

“The Black Lives Matter movement focused attention on global racism and racial inequities,” said the report. “#MeToo continued to highlight the issue of workplace sexism. Gender pay gap reporting confirmed all sectors of the UK economy are still paying women less than men. Despite perceptions of progress, there is a significant gap for gender in particular.”

The group cautioned against thinking diversity as only about social justice although that is an important goal.

“Gender balance is a business imperative,” the report said. “Leaders need to urgently wake up to the fact that if they fail to address the issue with the required effort, energy and investment, they risk falling behind in the most important areas of business success. Diversity of background leads to diversity of thought which leads to better decision making.”

Corporate best interests

“Failure to adequately address diversity and inclusion risks your reputation and could lose you customers,” said authors. “One study of consumer choice found that 55% of shoppers would switch if a retailer did not take responsibility for its own negative inclusion and diversity incidents, while 42% would pay a premium of 5% or more to shop with a retailer committed to diversity and inclusion. Meanwhile, growing numbers of investors are actively seeking out organizations that are leaders in the diversity and inclusion field.”

They concluded aviation and aerospace lag far behind.

Source: Women in Aerospace: Stuck At 24%

So much effort, so little progress

“For several decades, the aviation and aerospace sectors and STEM stakeholders have invested effort in attracting, retaining, and developing women,” the report concluded. “While some progress has been made, the pace of change has been slow. Only 5% of world’s pilots are women while only 15% of the UK tech and engineering graduates are women.”

Credit: CAE

It is not for lack of effort, as the report points out, having uncovered a huge variety of initiatives deployed to increase gender balance from establishing women’s networks to using technology to ensure job descriptions don’t contain bias. It suggests rejiggering employment search algorithms as the next step.

The percentage of women in the A&D workforce has been stuck around 24% since 2014 (with a slight dip in 2016),” said a 2019 US PWC study. “The percentage of female executives and the percentage of female engineering executives declined from 2017 to 2018, after rising a year earlier. And while the percentages on the hiring of diverse groups increased last year, no single group topped 10%.”

In 2018, Chief Executive noted the rise of women in the aerospace and defense (A&D) sectors, reporting, while women CEOs are only 4.8% of major firms, three of the top five A&D companies are run by women. While recounting the industry’s founding by “swashbuckling” males, it also recognized Olive Ann Beech, who took over Beech Aircraft in 1940.

“Their roles are not ornamental or driven by political correctness, but the culmination of a terrific performance in challenging mainstream career track postings,” wrote Author Jeffrey Sonnenfeld.

All this is very impressive since the International Air Transport Association (IATA) General Assembly assembled a male-only panel to talk about the dearth of women in aviation leadership. IATA’s failure is the perfect example of the problem. The fact is women have always been there but have been overlooked in a male-dominated industry.

Chief Growth Officer, Wheels Up, former President JetSuite.

“Realize you are smart enough, pretty enough, thin enough,” Stephanie Chung told the 2020 Women in Aviation Int’l conference. “In fact, you are quite enough to change the narrative. Be bold, be you!”

Inclusion is the issue

The report continued. “Leaders, no matter how senior and regardless of background, must be openly and authentically committed to improving gender balance, and need to champion their message throughout the organization and beyond it. People across the organization – men as well as women – must be encouraged to share their stories and listen and learn from others.”

Another failing is viewing diversity as little more than achieving equity for equity’s sake or tokenism. This diminishes, said the authors, the importance of senior leaders not only talking the talk but walking the walk.

“When purpose and inclusion are mismanaged, the disappointment and division can cause significant derailment on the journey to achieving gender balance,” the report concluded, adding companies must be careful not to incur a backlash from men who feel they are being discriminated against. It’s all about inclusion.

Lack of data

Another reason progress is slow, the report concluded, is the lack of targeted analysis of unique gender [and other diversity] challenges existing within aviation and aerospace.

While there are many programs to encourage under-represented communities to think aviation, there are absolutely no metrics about what works and what doesn’t.

What does work is bosses actively encouraging women to pursue career opportunities. In general, these women didn’t think they were qualified for these opportunities, a familiar refrain and a factor in why women aren’t making more progress. Indeed, it was not until their boss – mostly male – encouraged them in their ambitions they took action.  

The report indicated 48% of all respondents agreed they have been actively encouraged to apply for, or have been considered for, other positions in their company. For female respondents, the figures were: aerospace 46%; aviation 47%; defense 44%; and other sectors 48%.

Women aviation maintenance technicians indicated this support extends to the line. United’s Chix Fix Team was championed by Vice President Don Wright after being approached by the airline’s Managing Director of Airframe Repair and Overhaul Bonnie Turner, both indicators of a changing culture.

United Chix Fix Team 2018, one of three at the Aerospace Maintenance Competition made up of women and the only one from a commercial airline. Credit: United Airlines

Interviews I did for Aviation for Women revealed men stepping up to be mentors becoming more like surrogate fathers or big brothers who put newbies in their place if they made a neanderthal remark. Even so, like many women in men’s fields it takes a Teflon skin and quick wit to make it.

“To improve gender balance, leaders at all levels in the organization should actively encourage individuals to think about — and act on — their ambitions, and should be willing to offer support and advice,” said the report.

WiAAC is working with the Royal Aeronautical Society to develop mentoring programs providing independent guidance to women from outside their own companies. Not only does this enhance talent mobility but it also sends a clear message that leadership is committed to the cause, said the organization.

“When top teams send clear signals on improving gender balance, employees are more likely to see clear opportunities for women to excel and less likely to change industries to advance their careers,” the report concluded.

Negative industry perceptions

Perception is perhaps the final reason women and others aren’t making progress – aviation and aerospace have a bad rep. Women and people of colors are so scarce, those interested can’t see it to be it.

Released earlier this year, Women in Aviation: A Workforce Report by Associate Professor for the University of Nebraska Aviation Institute Dr. Rebecca Lutte, detailed how women viewed aviation/aerospace which constitutes a considerable barrier to diversification.

  • Women perceived aviation to be an adventurous, fun career.
  • They saw it as a way to prove their personal abilities.
  • They saw it as a challenging career.
  • But they also perceived it as a good-ole-boy network.

“The results indicate that workplace culture, described as good-ole-boy network, is still a deterrent to the ability to recruit and retain women in aviation,” said Lutte in her report for March/April 2020 Aviation for Women.

the WiAAC report found women thought they needed to leave the industry to pursue their ambitions.

Finally, they perceived it having a negative impact on work-life balance. This looms large in the industry’s ability to recruit and retain diverse talent. Long before Covid, antiquated work rules were a problem on which I reported here and here as millenials demand change.

In one final thought, authors said: “The most important lesson is that change cannot be put off any longer. Now is the time to start the conversation, to take action.”

At least now companies know what they are doing wrong and what they need to do to make it right.

Study Findings: Men still don’t get it

Men in the aviation and aerospace sectors were three times as likely as women to think the representation of women had significantly increased compared to five years ago

90% of respondents felt that perceptions are an inhibitor to the professional advancement of women. This includes perceptions that the industry is ‘male dominated’ (90%), lacks female executives or board members (89%), lacks promotion and/or upward mobility (85%), does not enable the flexibility to meet the needs of both work and personal life (85%), may not offer equitable pay (77%).

Approximately one-third of female respondents (31%) working in the aerospace sector thought they would have to change industries to advance their careers versus 19% of males working in the same sector

A higher proportion of females (84%) than males (67%) felt the perception that pay may not be equitable is an inhibitor to the advancement of women.

Respondents agreed making gender balance a reality would be of personal benefit, senior leaders (86%) and Blacks and Asians (80%) were most likely to agree.

Half of all females felt they had been treated differently because of their gender, notably higher than in other sectors. Only one-fifth of males felt they had been treated differently, only slightly higher than other sectors.

Many who switched from another sector such as retail, said they never thought about gender but moving into aviation and aerospace made them aware of feeling and being treated different.

Only 56% of females felt they could see clear opportunities for women to excel in their company, compared to 84% of males. 29% of females actively disagreed.

Pay equity in leadership roles was rated as an effective practice by the highest proportion of respondents from all sectors (aviation 50; aerospace 53%; other 49%).

Recommendations

Start with organization CEOs, Chairs and Board members in individual discussions on their understanding of inclusion and the impact on representation.

Understand how diversity features in the bigger picture of organizational performance and facilitate alignment of passion and vision for future outcomes. Agree a routine of conversation several times per year to reflect, observe and revisit.

Investment not tokenism. Agree how inclusion and representation can be measured and incorporated into organizational performance measures. Introduce an immediate program, inviting  colleagues throughout the organization to build inclusion into their role and focus to determine awareness and appetite.

Identify an organization champion who will build the community of inclusion leads throughout the organization and be supported, recognized, and rewarded as a longer-term plan is developed.

Plan an organization design review to understand how roles can be

restructured to accommodate inclusion review and recommendations.

Launch a working group to understand a sustainable long-term approach to measurement within signatory organizations and how to resource the central collation and reporting of the information.

Don’t be a ‘one hit wonder’. Build on the individual discussions to ensure commitment to long-term change and what it will take as well as the longer-term vision.

Agree how best to start sending practical messages immediately about what can be done to drive inclusion and gender balance.

Adopt people practices including performance, talent, engagement, and reward to identify gaps or available options to build a sustainable change platform.

Identify a passionate, accountable executives responsible for the success of the program to support and advise on the long-term change program who can influence stakeholders and dedicate time to galvanize support.

Emerging Technology Skills Gap Threatens Aviation Education, MRO

By Kathryn B. Creedy

Key Takeaways:

  • Aviation Educators See Skills Gap for AAM/UAM, Hybrid & Hydrogen Powerplants, Unmanned Cargo and Space Needs and Prepare New Curricula
  • MROs Risk Being Left Behind as New, Powerful Players Enter Market
  • Emerging Technology is Gateway to Attracting More to Aviation/Aerospace
  • MRO Model May be Upended
  • Part 147 Reform Takes on New Urgency as FAA Fails to Act
  • New Super Technician, Deployed to On-Site Operations, Will Be Needed

Officials at advanced air mobility (AAM/UAM), eVTOL, hybrid and hydrogen power, Large Unmanned Cargo Aircraft (LUCA) and commercial space companies are already worried they face a lack of qualified maintenance workers as their technologies become operational. They are concerned, with current curricula and traditional MRO practices, they will not find the services and skills necessary to support their industries. In response, aviation maintenance schools are listening and beginning now to ensure they are ready.

Utah Valley University, for example, established a new degree program developed for A&P technicians to use their credentials to earn a BS degree in Aerospace Technology Management. Its new coursework includes critical topics associated with emerging technology such as Research Topics in Urban Air Mobility & Autonomous UAS; Aerospace Aftermarket Support Services; Aerospace Vehicle Certification, Reliability Maintenance Systems and Aerospace Technology Management Capstone Project. In addition, with the recent acquisition of Singapore-based Air Transport Training College, the school will be investing in course work for emerging technologies including AAM/UAM and artificial intelligence.

“This advanced technology is beyond the current scope of Part 147 school curriculum and it will profoundly impact the requirements in the future,” Utah Valley University Associate Professor, School of Aviation Sciences Stephen Ley told Future Aviation/Aerospace Workforce News (FA/AW News). “These manufacturers are familiar with Part 147 standards and are concerned they will not be sufficient to support high-capacity electrical power storage and associated systems. Distributed electric propulsion systems will be a critical skill required in the future.

“MROs and manufacturers will be looking for highly skilled ‘super technicians’, someone with both A&P and avionics expertise rolled into one,” he continued. “We need to integrate these two disciplines so we can keep emergent aircraft safely operational, compliant to certification requirements and reliable. Traditional aircraft will not go away but they will evolve to include the XTI Aircraft Trifan 600, Joby S4 and the magniX-electric-powered Caravan.”

Opportunity to Attract More Interest in Industry

Adjunct Instructor School of Aviation Sciences Utah Valley University Aaron Organ pointed out these new industries provide aviation schools, manufacturers and MROs with a gateway to a future workforce, where  perception problems belie the fact aviation maintenance technicians are highly skilled and highly paid.

“This technology is new and exciting and can be used by schools and industry to spike interest,” said Organ. “We have a workforce shortage. Lets use this to our advantage to expose young people to the opportunities for high-tech jobs.”

Ley and Organ addressed these and other issues surrounding this new emerging technology as part of an Aviation Technical Education Council (ATEC) webinar last week to alert both aviation and MRO industries of the urgent need for change. The AAM/UAM industry, they said, has not shut down during Covid as illustrated by successful flights during the summer by magniX and the hydrogen-powered Piper by ZeroAvia.

“Sustainability is driving this,” Organ explained. “UAM integration will lead to sustainable transportation and the need for sustainable transportation is key to growth, city and regional planning. We are on the horizon of a new age of aviation and aerospace. This is no longer science fiction. It’s flying now and we need to be ready.”

They urged schools and MROs to take action to ensure A&P and avionics graduates have the skills needed. This has been helped tremendously by the FAA acceptance of ASTM’s NCATT Aircraft Electronics Technician certification in 2018.

“This future is inevitable and if you look at the technology,” said Ley. “We can leverage existing competencies and skills. These technologies will be additive to that. So many groups are working independently to provide solutions for workforce development. An airline can afford to have a separation of specializations, A&P and Avionics. Even MROs can afford to do so as the talent cost is distributed across a variety of airframes. However, AAM, its operational environment, and its likely limited business operating margins, may require a single technician to support the entire airframe on the flight line for line maintenance.”

Credit: Utah Valley University

Challenges for MROs

The challenges for the MRO community will be dramatic, changing the location of service.

“There will be an increased demand for equipment, support talent, logistics and supply chain, facilities and zoning for air operations within a metropolitan area,” Ley explained. “UAM is relatively short range in urban environments. It needs MRO on site where they are operating or co-located within their infrastructure. Third party service providers currently used by OEMs and operators are not conversant with UAM/AAM tech so they have to get up to speed to ensure their technicians are qualified and competent on these aircraft. This is an opportunity for the ATEC community to think differently about where our pipeline comes from and understand graduates will have other choices with new players who already have vast support networks.”

Organ cautioned that new players are entering the market which could threaten the MRO business model.

“Joby Aviation received $395 million from Toyota and has a certification target by 2023,” he said. “Uber Elevate is partnering the Hyundai. Both have service-center networks already in place which will compete with traditional MROs. These new companies do not have the existing infrastructure and qualified professionals to support their products so their best solution is to leverage the expertise of established, certified Part 145 repair stations but MROs must build the expertise and capabilities to respond.”

Part 147 Reform Takes on New Urgency

Ley, who is also active in Utah Aerospace Education Association (UAEA), reviewed the skills needed.

“Systems will be highly integrated and complex,” he said. “The industry is working on high-capacity battery storage systems and associated charging, electricity regulations and safety sub-systems. Other subjects include high-torque electric motors with fully integrated thrust management and flight control systems and associated structures. There is also automated flight systems including ground and object proximity sensors for collision avoidance and highly integrated and interdependent instrumentation, navigation and datalink systems that will be interlinked with ground-based unmanned air traffic management system or low-altitude air traffic management. These new aircraft will have integrated airframe and propulsion monitoring systems to perform fault isolation, system health monitoring and post-maintenance functional checks and composite primary structures and forms all of which will be required skills in the future.

Organ pointed to other new technologies including alternative energy to improve powerplants, noting research and development are in full swing and flying and expected to be certificated in the next couple of years. He cited ZeroAvia’s hydrogen-power demonstration this summer of a modified Piper aircraft. He added Airbus is already working on a 100% hydrogen-fueled aircraft for 200 passengers with a realistic EIS in 2035.

“We will see continual improvement of power plants as we search for more efficient fuel burn and clean sustainable energy,” said Organ. “Many companies are in various stages of R&D and testing of hybrid, all electric and hydrogen-powered aircraft, driven by our quest for sustainability and their potential to significantly reduce operational costs.”

Efforts to reform the Part 147 rules, now before Congress with House and Senate bills –  Promoting Aviation Regulations for Technical Training (PARTT) 147 Act – directs FAA to finally act on widely supported, more flexible curriculum. Such a move would remove and replace current Part 147 with community-drafted language that would replace prescriptive and duplicative operational requirements and curriculum hour and subject area mandates with new performance-based regulations. This would give schools and employers the freedom to develop programs that better align with industry needs and ensure individuals begin their careers equipped to hit the ground running, according to ATEC Executive Director Crystal Maguire, who has been championing the effort for years.

Reform now takes on new urgency since it is already hard to deliver curriculum now used at Part 147 schools in 1900 hours and 24 months. With new requirements needed to support these emerging technologies it could mean expanding training requirements.

Sea Change for Aviation Education and MRO

“This new technology changes everything,” said Ley. “We need to update the technical and qualification standards and pay close attention to maintenance, repair and overhaul. There will be an evolution in MRO deployment. This will affect regional and rural transportation networks, air taxis and small package delivery for medical and other cargo. This will have a dramatic impact on demographics, where people live and will change how we support disparate communities. In addition to the new technical education standards, regulations need changing. The new technology impacts maintenance and inspection criteria and existing certification standards will have to adapt. We need to develop consensus standards.”

The major players are Airbus with its E-Fan, VoltAero’s Cassio 2 and magniX Magni500, a 750hp all-electric Cessna Caravan, expected to be certified by the end of 2021. magniX is also working with Universal Hydrogen on converting the de Havilland Dash 8 regional airliner to electric propulsion which will have implications for ATR-42s and 72s.

Demand for New Tech Aircraft Goes Beyond Air Taxi

“Large Unmanned Cargo Aircraft (LUCA) will have payloads accommodating 100 to 250,000 pounds on routes that go from 200 to 10,000 miles,” said Ley. “Look at Natilus’s unmanned lifting body and unmanned seaplane which promised to reduce cargo rates by 50%,  Sabrewing’s Rhaegal and Elroy Air’s Chaparral, both expected to be operational by 2022. Garuda is already considering using unmanned systems to serve 18,000 islands in the Indonesian archipelago, now only served by sea, using China’s Beihang Technology. FedEx and other cargo haulers are already exploring unmanned cargo flights. EASA is ahead of the FAA in publishing certification standards for autonomous eVTOLS.”

Other aircraft include XTI Trifan 600 as an example and the Italdesign Airbus Pop Up to name just two of the 361 efforts listed on the Vertical Flight Society site. He indicated the global drone logistics market generated $24 million in revenue in 2018 and is expected to be a $1.6 billion industry by 2027. These aircraft promise lower operating costs and operational flexibility to serve isolated areas.

Commercial Space Part of the New Tech

Commercial Space, 80% of which is funded by private capital such as SpaceX, Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin to name just a few of the hundreds who want a slice of the space pie, is already flying and involved in space exploration, missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond and developing satellite innovations.

Credit: Space Foundation

Commercial space, is, in fact, the fastest growing aviation/aerospace sector with ambitions at more than 100 launches annually, translating into thousands of high-tech opportunities for aviation and avionics technicians needed to repair and overhaul reusable launch vehicles.

Ley advised schools and MROs to tap all the resources developed by NBAA, GAMA, Vertical Flight Society, FAA, NASA and ASTM. These organizations embraced the new technology and how it will impact their industries. He also said they, at the very least, should start introducing students and the workforce to these new technologies which are rapidly developing.

ATEC Leading the Way

ATEC and the two professors are leading in guiding membership on the future. They proposed developing an emerging technologies committee to strategically examine the impact on the aviation/aerospace industry and how to adapt their programs to ensure students are prepared for new-age technology.

“The introduction of this new technology will widen the existing gap in Part 147 AMT standards,” said Ley. “We need to assess UAM maintenance requirements. We need a task analysis of what skills and tools will be required and we then need a gap analysis with existing curricula. We can then make recommendations on how to pursue the integration of these advanced technologies into the general airframe and powerplant curricula in schools. If the FAA won’t mandate, we can’t wait. We have to do it ourselves. The FAA already allows you to add to Part 147 curricula but we need to develop learning modules and objectives that integrate this technology.”

AAM/UAM, changing powerplants and commercial space will have profound impacts on the aviation education, MRO and aerospace industries and, listening to Organ and Ley, it is passed time to prepare for their integration.

Veteran Aviation Reporter Launches Aviation/Aerospace Workforce News Site

Credit: Duvindu Dilshan

In response to critical workforce shortages which have not been mitigated by Covid-19, Future Aviation/Aerospace Workforce News has been launched to make sense of industry regulatory, corporate, training, recruitment and retention challenges.

“Before the pandemic businesses were leaving billions on the table for lack of workforce,” said Editor in Chief Kathryn Creedy, who launched the new site. “Now businesses are saying we must use this time to prepare for the future. While industry has been proposing regulatory and training changes, others have been working to promote aviation careers. Corporations are adding apprenticeships and there is a strong move toward career and technical education. These initiatives have largely gone uncovered leaving many to reinvent wheels that have been successful for others. Future Aviation/Aerospace Workforce News will change that.”

https://www.boeing.com/commercial/market/pilot-technician-outlook/

The twice monthly subscription news site will cover such issues as:

  • What government, industry, unions and associations are doing to promote aviation/aerospace careers
  • How Advanced Air Mobility & drones wil impact workforce challenges
  • Bringing aviation education & training into the 21st Century
  • Proposals by safety experts on training reform
  • How companies are getting into the inner city to increase diversity
  • What does and doesn’t work in the 100s of programs already launched
  • Transitioning military talent to civilian jobs
  • What industry needs to do to retain workers leaving because of Covid burnout
  • Funding strategies
  • Barriers to entry
  • Legislative changes needed
  • Public perception vs reality
  • Growing role of Career & Technical Education
  • Apprenticeships & Internships
  • Airlines creating partnerships with universities & flight schools
  • National Center for the Advancement of Aviation
  • Shortages in other disciplines such as ATC, advanced design, flight dispatch and other
  • Work rule changes for the modern workforce

The current workforce glut is short-term and numerous forecasts show shortages will be worse in the next few years because they have always been driven by retirement. Covid has accelerated those retirements with the permanent loss of thousands of highly skilled workers.  

Aviation and aerospace are competing with Silicon Valley and new employers working in advanced materials and manufacturing. Industry knows it can give Silicon Valley a run for its money with such innovations as unmanned systems, advanced air mobility, aviation innovation incubators, commercial space, environment issues, changing powerplant technology and connected aircraft. While the flight deck and the maintenance bay get most of the attention in terms of workforce shortages, other disciplines including ATC, dispatch, data analysis, aircraft and interior design, engineering, project management, IT and cybersecurity are all face challenges as well.

With 40 years’ experience in the aviation industry, Kathryn Creedy will cover all these workforce development issues. With an eye toward identifying voids in aviation coverage, Creedy began her aviation career creating Commuter/Regional Airline News to cover the intense activity of the post-deregulation regional airline industry. C/R News became the bible of the regional airline industry leading to the development of C/R News International. Creedy has also developed and edited several other aviation publications.

She has reported aviation workforce issues since 2013 and continues to write extensively on the subject including work rule issues, aviation maintenance technicians and pilots. Her 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 and Runway Girl Network. In 2018, she was cited for the Sapphire Pegasus Business Aviation Award for her work as a business aviation journalist. Creedy is also the author of Time Flies – The History of SkyWest Airlines.

Kcreedy@futureaviationaerospaceworkforce.com

Breakfast at my House

During the week we’re often walking out the door with a coffee in one hand and slice of toast in the other, but on weekends breakfast is never rushed. It’s a late affair, sometimes spilling over to lunch, with lots of reading and chatter in between courses of fruits, poached eggs, honey and toast. One of our favorite things we like to serve when friends are visiting are buckwheat blueberry pancakes.