Published in Midwest Flyer – August/September 2019 issue
Nearly every child has a dream or dreams of what they want to do for their future career. Many have a dream of flying fighters, airliners or aerobatic aircraft, for instance. Once they have tasted the excitement and freedom of aviation, it becomes a burning ember in their hearts. For some, the ember becomes a flame that drives them to do amazing things in aviation.
Many, if not most, people in the aviation industry, no matter what their job or affiliation to aviation may be, are excited to see a young person take advantage of a chance to live out his/her dreams as they become a part of the aviation community. But still today, it seems to be a struggle to attract youth to the industry.
Today’s youth have grown up knowing technology and rapid advancements in and with that technology. That’s why many have the mindset that every other year they need a new phone, for instance. After all, it is two years old and the technology has surely been upgraded to be faster and more capable in all that it does.
Dave Franson, president of the Wichita Aero Club, said in an article published by General Aviation News, February 28, 2019, “The industry has no other choice — it won’t grow or prosper without fresh talent,” he explains. “It’s imperative that a new generation of leaders and workers replace those who are retiring. The potential for the aerospace industry is extraordinary, and the technology and capabilities of the industry have advanced at an impressive pace, but that advancement is fostered by the infusion of new ideas, fresh perspective, and the boundless energy of enthusiastic new participants.”
One point is that using “ancient” technology and equally “ancient” teaching methods can be extremely confusing and off-putting for these youth. That is because they have little or no knowledge or experience with that type of equipment and they don’t understand the old-style teaching methods. So, for GA and in fact, the entire aviation industry to survive and grow, we must find new ways to inform and educate today’s youth about aviation!
One way to reach our young people at a very basic level is to take advantage of the spirit of mentoring that fortunately runs throughout the aviation industry. Pilots could utilize the collective strength of their favorite flying club, for instance, to visit local schools and give talks and demonstrations about aviation and the industry as a whole. Your demonstration can show students the steam gauges and how they are similar to the digital representations of instruments on your Primary Flight Display or iPad, for instance. Make yourself available to them. Share your information and passion about aviation.
Talk to your community’s middle and high school teachers. Enlist their support in helping you to learn new ways to reach out to students and present/teach information to the youth of today. Work together with your local FBO and aircraft technicians to plan and host a field trip to your local airport. Take students on a tour of the facility and show them what a career in those areas of aviation could entail. Give them chances to ask questions and see things up close. Share positive stories about your experiences in aviation. Be available to answer questions and provide straight-forward guidance to them.
There are also many different avenues a person can take to reach their dream in aviation. Some may follow in their parents’ footsteps, while others may reach their goals via an internship. Still others may reach their dream job through a process of personal discovery. But you can help these young people to lay that foundation of interests and possibilities in aviation.
Remember also that there are industry advocacy groups, like the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), and their “You Can Fly” initiative. There is also the National Business Aviation Association’s (NBAA) Young Professionals in Business Aviation (YoPro) initiative, for instance, that can be very helpful providers of resources you can use and share with your student audiences.
The point is, one-size does not fit all, and there are numerous roads that can be taken to reach that aviation dream job. This is YOUR opportunity to be the catalyst for the growth of aviation desire within today’s youth in your community.
Please, take the initiative to open the door to the future, for the next generation of excited and motivated aviators!