Aviation Workforce Development, Inc. – A Gateway, A Connection, A Lifestyle

Aviation Workforce Development, Inc (AWD) is a non-profit organization in the Twin Cities region of Minnesota that is addressing critical aviation workforce issues that the aviation industry is facing now and in the coming decades. The AWD mission is to connect college students and young professionals to one of the most exciting and dynamic industries in the world, aviation. It offers one place to locate, often hard-to-find information, about all aviation career paths – information that up until now has been scattered across hundreds of sources and websites nationwide.

The idea behind the endeavor came to its founder and executive director, Dr. Tara L. Harl, when she realized in the past few years that while many in the industry have shown concern for the looming workforce needs facing aviation (what she calls “the perfect storm of workforce issues”), much talk has not led to much concrete initiative. She believes a few of the more critical issues include the large retirement of the baby-boomer population; the changing U.S. demographics; and the rising demands of the world economy, politics and technology that are looming down on aviation.

“Our new organization is the first of its type to bring together interested parties across all avenues of aviation,” said Dr. Harl. “Young professionals looking to enter and build a career in aviation, and an industry in search of those critically needed employees for the future.”

By fall 2011, Dr. Harl began to notice more and more articles in the industry trade journals and on websites discussing the looming workforce issues. Yet, still few concrete initiatives were being developed to address them.

Dr. Harl called friends who were industry leaders across many specialties, asking them “what do you think?” The feedback she got was that there was definitely a need for AWD and she proceeded to form a board, find technical support to build a website, and generate interest in the endeavor. Much of the talent for AWD has come from the aviation students at St. Cloud State University. Unfortunately, the department in which Dr. Harl has chaired since 2009 and is known throughout the United States for its program excellence, is slated to be closed in 2014 due to budget restraints and a shift in university priorities.

The motto of AWD is “a mile of road will get you a mile…a mile of runway will get you anywhere.” AWD’s mission statement is “to be the gateway attracting young professionals to the aviation industry, a career field often considered a lifestyle, and not just a job.” The organization’s vision is to “address the perfect storm of 21st century workforce development issues, to connect young professionals to information on career success, and to develop leaders for the future.” A pretty big endeavor Dr. Harl admits, but being an aviation history “nut,” she appreciates Minnesota’s long and proud history of being in the forefront of aviation, being the birthplace of Charles Lindbergh, Northwest Airlines, and aircraft float manufacturer Wipaire; and home of Cirrus Aircraft, a nationally acclaimed aerospace engineering program at the University of Minnesota, and one of the largest business aviation organizations – the Minnesota Business Aviation Association (MBAA).

For additional information visit the Aviation Workforce Development at  www.aviationworkforcedevelopment.org.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Tara L. Harl is an experienced aviator and educator in Business and Collegiate Aviation. She holds an Airline Transport Pilot Certificate, is type rated in corporate jets with international flight experience, holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Aviation Management, Master of Science Degree in Aerospace Education, and a Doctoral Degree in Aviation Leadership Development. She founded Aviation Workforce Development, Inc. (AWD) to address the “perfect storm” of workforce issues facing the 21st century aviation industry. Dr. Harl chairs the Professional Development sub-committee for the NBAA Corporate Aviation Management Committee, is a research panel chair for the National Academies of Science’s Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP), has been a consultant to organizational restructuring of HBC (Historically Black College) aviation programs, held positions of director of operations and chief pilot in corporate flight departments, co-owned Part 135 and 141 fixed/rotor operations, and owned an aircraft management firm. Dr. Harl was the first woman to be awarded the Airbus Leadership Award and the Boeing Career Enhancement Scholarship in the same year for her research on the Experience of Blacks In Business Aviation, published by Purdue University.

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