Maybe because it is Spring, hence a time of growth and rebirth, or perhaps it is simply coincidence, but recently my LinkedIn feed has been showing a number of great initiatives to attract new talent into the aviation industry. Air cargo can draw inspiration from these, too.
Two of my favorite posts (which inspired the article title) bore the headlines “He started his career as a ramp agent, now he is a pilot”, about a ramp agent hauling bags who casually
struck up conversation with a pilot which changed his life - he gave him a “flight plan” and went on to become his mentor and accompany his journey to finally becoming a B767 pilot 6 years
The second, very similar headline in the same week, different airline: “He used to load planes, now he fixes them”, about a ramp agent for Alaska Airlines, who, thanks to the airline’s new Maintenance Technician Development Program, is now a fully-fledged line aircraft technician. The program, which leads to a contingent job offer upon successful completion, “is geared towards individuals who want to gain the skills needed to become an aircraft maintenance technician. Aspiring aircraft technicians who enroll in our program will receive up to $12,300 in stipend assistance and have mentorship opportunities with a certified A&P aircraft maintenance technician”. Kyle H., the ramp-agent-turned-technician in question, is quoted as saying “Know what you’re capable of, but don’t be afraid to push your limits. Hard work and determination will always pay off, and I’m living proof.” For me, that same message applies to companies: “know what your employees are capable of.” You have an untapped talent pool likely already working for you, which could be upskilled and better placed in different areas. Is your company doing enough to recognize potential and develop it from within?
Many a Mentor has changed a life
Both previous examples involve mentors – someone who can show newbies the ropes. Mentoring posts also caught my eye. Over in Nigeria, an airline consultant was offering a 2-hour online introduction to careers in aviation as an opener into mentoring. Showing what you do was also the point of a recent “Airport Classroom Program” at a community college in the U.S., where Lynden Logistics representatives shared their knowledge with students. One of the speakers, Elodie Gergov, Director of International Operations for Lynden Logistics, said: “It was my first time being an official speaker at a class. I always welcome the opportunity to tell the world what Lynden Logistics does, so I immediately accepted. A portion of the presentation was about our career path and our job responsibilities at Lynden.” The company, which emphasizes its training initiatives, too, also participates in adult education programs geared at transport. Are there similar initiatives in your vicinity that your company could be participating in – or even creating?
Girls on a wing
Our well-known Women in Aviation and Logistics association embarked upon its second 4-month mentoring program, recently, to assist young women in their career progression. Over in Canada, Elevate Aviation, a group also specifically focused on encouraging women to get into the aviation industry, is on a nationwide tour, with speakers from across the sector (air traffic controllers, pilots, airplane maintenance technicians, etc.) explaining their jobs to students, and promoting the message that workplaces need to be diverse. “The group believes that three of four students who attend the Canada-wide tour will consider a job in aviation,” one article revealed. Meanwhile, over in Cameroon, the YAAPA and Women in Aviation hosted a Girls in Aviation Day to bring attention to the different roles in the aviation industry – that it is more than simply being a flight attendant. Fadimatou Noutchemo, Founder & President at Young African Aviation Professional Association (YAAPA), explained “We believe that by doing enough outreach in schools and getting stakeholders involved, the students will find passion, inspiration, and role models. We don’t have an African astronaut, but this is an aviation career. We have careers at the airports, but very few think about them. They just think aviation is an airline.”
Never too young to start!
Another excellent image on LinkedIn, was that of Eszter Kovács, Co-Founder of DroneTalks & Aerial Cities & DroneTalks Jobs, holding her daughter who is playing with a drone: “This is what it looks like when a 1.5-year-old gets a drone present from EASA - European Union Aviation Safety Agency team! Touch, try and play with it. The usual reactions, and I let her experience it. I do not block her. This is the second year she is visiting Amsterdam Drone Week. She was born in the age of drones.” Play is an important element that is well worth encouraging and there are a growing number of initiatives for all ages. The FAA launched its annual Airport Design Challenge (ADC) again on 01APR23 - an interactive learning and collaboration opportunity for students in grades K-12, which involves using Minecraft to design virtual airports. In general, on its education page, the FAA offers a broad range of school-related programs from elementary through to university.
Add a milk-round to air cargo events
Similar to aviation automatically being associated with pilots/flight attendants, space agencies are synonymous with astronauts. In a 35-second video on its LinkedIn page recently, titled “We recruit – not only astronauts”, the European Space Agency advertised more than 200 available jobs, and listing 16 separate fields as examples of the specializations required. Air Cargo, too, is more than simply loading boxes. Our industry needs to do more to promote the huge variety of skills and specializations required. As a great TEDx fan, I envisage a kind of TEDx Cargo event solely focused on every possible role in the air cargo industry. 16 is the perfect number for a full day of maximum 18-minute role/function-specific presentations (which could be filmed for YouTube), interspersed with networking breaks where participants can visit air cargo companies’ promotional (preferable interactive) booths. Those booths could already exist because of an existing air cargo conference (e.g. run by TIACA, IATA, Messe München), so this TEDx-style program could be a perfect 1-day “milk-run” add-on event, and advertised in colleges and universities in the region. Interested in giving it a try? Given that the largest interest group (of an almost equal gender mix: 46% male/54% female) attending TED talks is aged 25-34 (31%), followed by 18-24-year-olds (28%), the concept would work for the relevant age group.
What you can do, personally
Every one of us in the air cargo industry can do our bit to attract talent. Aside from speaking in schools/universities or networking events, or inviting people to open days in your company, or joint social responsibility initiatives, you can also do much on social media. TikTok or Instagram can of course show a more informal side to the business, however, there is much that can be done on LinkedIn, too. If you come across people with that green “open to work” banner, actively point them in the direction of air cargo and aviation – or at least like their post to give them greater visibility. Share job posts from people in your network, or from your company, and perhaps reach out to offer mentoring.
Baby boomers are currently reaching retirement age “at the rate of 10,000 each day” (according to an American thesis from 2019), yet the work influx of newer generations is nowhere near as high, so air cargo is competing with all kinds of other industries. It is up to us to make it attractive – the earlier the awareness, the better.
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