One of the fascinating findings of the Youth Access to American Jobs in Aviation Task Force so far is that “youth” is relative.
The trends subcommittee, on which I serve, asked aviation students at what age they first became interested in their career path. The range of answers was surprising. Although they did cluster around “formative years” and begin in early childhood, responses stretched all the way up to 50. At an age when some professionals are beginning long countdowns to retirement, we have students embarking on aviation journeys.
I took my nephew Frank on a visit to Reagan Washington National Airport in June to tour the hangar, workshop and classrooms at the University of the District of Columbia’s (UDC) maintenance training school. One of my favorite moments of our long stay was meeting a student who had shown up early for class. Our tour guide explained that she was a top student: a mother of two in her late 30s making a career transition. Taking a break from preparing a whiteboard for an afternoon workshop, she let Frank feel the flowing fabrics in the composites area before letting him slam a finished piece against the shop floor. Her joy at showing off her work was infectious.
In August, a friend announced plans to pursue a commercial piloting career. Having just passed age 40, with a wife and three children, the longtime teacher explained: “The global . . . pandemic has made me realize that life is short—it can change in an instant—and that nothing is guaranteed.
“Becoming an airline pilot is something I have been interested in pursuing for the last several years, but the timing wasn’t right,” he continued. “With the amazing support of my wife . . . and family, the moment to embark on this new adventure is now.”
How about that? The pathways leading people into and through aviation are everywhere. Our focus on the future demands attention to classrooms, playgrounds, social media accounts and other denizens of “youth,” but building a robust pipeline of talent requires that we recognize every single point of career entry and find ways to support and nurture them.
I have decided against convincing my friend to pursue a maintenance career, although ARSA’s resources should be a stopping point for anyone considering aviation. Instead, I have asked him to share his journey by describing lessons learned and challenges as well as his triumphs experienced over the coming months. Stories like his, the UDC student’s and many others can show what a rich, diverse and exciting community ours can be.
So let’s take a short break from our commitment to “youth access” for the sake of broad and diverse access. What stories do you have of friends, family or colleagues who made mature transitions into aviation? I would love to hear them.
Courtesy of Brett Levanto of Aviation Week