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1 The aviation industry, now just short of 120 years after the Wright Brothersâ epic first flight in 1903 in Kitty Hawk, enplanes about 858 million passengers annually,1 drives employment for more than 10 million people,2 provides almost 20,000 landing facilities,3 and contributes more than $1.5 trillion to the U.S. economy.4 Ironically, the industryâs strength has now become its weakness. With baby boomers currently reaching retirement age at the rate of 10,000 each day,5 and later generations much smaller in size, new employees are not entering the workforce swiftly enough to replace those leaving because of retirement, illness, and other complicating factors. As a result, the aviation industry, like others, is experienc- ing a significant labor shortage. With no end in sight, the industry has joined forces in a number of unique partnerships in an effort to not only enhance the quality of current aviation graduates, but also stimulate interest in aviation careers among college students, high school students, and even middle school and elementary school students. To better understand the role of high schools and two-year community colleges in pre- paring the next generation of aviation professionals, the Transportation Research Board undertook this synthesis. By focusing on high schools with aviation pathways (or general job areas) and community colleges with aviation degree programs, the board hopes that the bonds between airports and these academic programs can be strengthened. Potentially, those students choosing aviation couldâby default to the most visible careersâfocus more on flight, aircraft maintenance, or air traffic control than airport operations or manage- ment, thus leaving airports with staffing shortages and poor succession plans. In essence, all segments of the aviation industry (airports, airlines, and the FAA, for example) are competing against each other for the same labor pool. This synthesis points out the many characteristics of high school and community college aviation programs throughout the country, which could prove useful to airport manage- ment. By better understanding the academic programs producing the next generation of aviation professionals, airports can develop proactive efforts to promote the airport pro- fession to aviation programs in their local area and influence young people to seriously consider airports as a viable career path, thus positively affecting the future of the airport industry. Key conclusions of this synthesis are the following: 1. More airport operations/management academic programs at both the high school and community college levels would help the airport industry. 2. Airport leaders can play an important role not only in the development of additional programs, but also in engaging local K-12 students through air shows, airport tours, and school visits to spark student interest in aviation academic programs and careers. S U M M A R Y Promoting Aviation Career Education in High Schools and Community Colleges
2 Promoting Aviation Career Education in High Schools and Community Colleges 3. The development of more partnerships between community colleges and airports would not only prove beneficial to students, but also serve to strengthen community colleges and their relationships with the airport industry. 4. Airports might consider supporting local aviation academic programs by beginning a discussion on the possibility of hangars and classroom space on airport property. 5. Owing to challenges at high schools and community colleges relating to funding, outside influences, development, and political support, airports may significantly help academic aviation programs by providing resources for support in those areas. 6. Airport staff can support extracurricular activities at high school and community college aviation programs by offering airport tours and guest speakers. 7. Airports can support work-based learning requirements at high schools and community colleges with internships and other innovative industry learning opportunities. 8. Airports that support unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) operations and integration, perhaps by offering on-airport space for UAS operations, will be supporting the next generation of UAS professionals. 9. Airports can ensure that more students consider the airport management profession by holding and participating in career fairs, open houses, tours, internships, and more. 10. Airports could promote industry certifications [such as AAAE Airport Certified Employee (ACE) and Certified Member (C.M.)] to high schools and community colleges, and possibly even offer to proctor these exams at the airport. 11. Airports could lend support in the promotion of academic aviation programs to prospective students and in recruiting faculty. 12. By supporting existing and planned high school and community college aviation programs, airports may ensure that the airport industry is aware of such programs. 13. Airports have a great deal to offer high school and community college aviation programs and, with expertise, internships, and more, are able to minimize aviation program challenges. 14. If airports are interested in developing partnerships with high school and community college aviation programs, they would benefit by reviewing high school and community college statements of advice to industry, as well as learning from airports with existing high school or community college partnerships. 15. A champion is needed to not only propose the development of an aviation program, but also drive it forward. The airport and airline industries can provide an industry champion to both stimulate development and ensure continued growth of the program. 16. Because some schools may not have a teacher on staff with an aviation background, industry support for the teacher without an aviation background is crucial. 17. Schools might want to consider partnering with the Civil Air Patrol, a U.S. Air Force auxiliary that is designed to prepare students as aviation and aerospace leaders of tomorrow. 18. Airports may participate in high school and community college industry advisory committees and forums for career guidance and counseling. This report does not propose best practices or guidance but offers a synthesis of informa- tion from 59 high schools and 61 community colleges nationwide in the area of aviation education and industry partnerships. Although practices vary and lessons learned differ, themes are identified that will be useful to airports in promoting the next generation of airport professionals.