In late September, the mainstream media was alive with headlines detailing the tens of thousands of airline employees who would be furloughed October 1, 2020, without further government payroll assistance, all because of the corrosive effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. When no fresh funding appeared, some of the airlines—such as United—worked hard to keep as many people on the payroll as possible, but many thousands more were made redundant. Even pilots—who at the beginning of 2020 could write their own ticket to the cockpit—were suddenly no longer necessary. The chatter since has focused on how many young people have come to realize pursuing a career in our industry was a complete waste of time. Of course, not everyone is that cynical.
As anyone who’s been around the industry a few decades understands, aviation is and always will be cyclical. Certainly the downturn of 2020 is worse than anyone alive can remember, but we know the industry will return—we’re just not certain when. But that doesn’t mean young people should give up on their dreams to be part of the industry we all know and love. Preparing to work in this industry has long required the right kind of training and formal education. If the past decade has taught us anything, it’s that we need to reach out to more young people in big cities and a host of non-traditional places. We need to explain the opportunities, the apprenticeships and internships, and the industry partnerships in which OEMs, unions, and associations are looking past today’s headlines to define the workforce that will lead this industry as baby-boomers retire. But how does a young person—especially one who doesn’t already know someone employed in aviation—learn the ins and outs of an industry that at times has appeared elitist?
Kathryn Creedy, an experienced aviation journalist, has made it her mission to gather the details about current and future workforce issues in her new online publication, Future Aviation/Aerospace Workforce News. She sees her new publication as the go-to location for anyone already talking about the industry, as well as the young people who are interested in a closer look. Long ago, Creedy, a 40-year industry veteran, helped launch the print edition of Commuter/Regional Airline News to cover the post-deregulation regional airline industry.
“Experts understand the current workforce glut is short-term and numerous forecasts show shortages will be worse in the next few years,” she said in a news release, “because they have been driven by retirements. But COVID-19 has accelerated those retirements with the permanent loss of thousands of skilled workers.” She knows a significant portion of today’s young people don’t look at the aviation industry the way some of us who used to peer through the airport fence do. “The public’s perception of aviation is that this is an old industrial career,” she told Flying. “Some people think we’re talking about simply becoming aircraft technicians swinging wrenches, which is why we’re having trouble recruiting. We can’t compete against Silicon Valley because we’ve done such a poor job of talking about the exciting, highly-skilled, well-paid opportunities in aerospace. We need to promote the research of new fuels, new propulsion systems like electric aircraft, cybersecurity and the dozens of other careers that will demand talented staff.”
Creedy knows there are plenty of organizations already working—often on a local basis in high schools—to show young people the possibilities. She believes Future Aviation/Aerospace Workforce News will tell those stories to young people, “perhaps even in grade or middle school.” In addition to the organizations organizing hundreds of opportunities, she said young people can get a peek inside this exciting industry by looking for local chapters of Women in Aviation, EAA and others—groups she’ll report on.
Creedy’s offering a free trial look at Future Aviation/Aerospace Workforce News through the end of 2020 by visiting the company website. In January, the publication will be available by subscription only. She hopes to soon have a student subscription rate as well.