You may have heard somewhere that a pilot shortage is looming. Personally, I believe that rumor to be true. I also believe there will be challenges in finding qualified people to fill skilled positions as aircraft mechanics, engineers, designers, administrators, and maybe even line personnel. The future is a blank slate. However, we can affect it if we choose to.
By the way, just to dispel any sense you might harbor that I could be a kook, or a nut, or a fervent supporter of Daylight Savings Time, let me be clear: I do not believe in the Loch Ness monster, Bigfoot, the jackalope, or whoever that space-alien guy on the History Channel is. You know, the one with the huge poofy hair who thinks every unknown question in the world can be answered with an imbecilic grin and the statement, “Aliens did it.”
Yeah, I’m a bit weird. But I’m not that weird.
Now, back to my original premise. I assert that our future will be in question if we do not find and nurture the next generation of aviation professionals. That’s just logical. If an insufficient number of replacement crewmen (and women) step up to fill the seats of the current crop, then we will indeed suffer a shortage in the coming years.
Furthering that logical progression, it doesn’t take Sheldon Cooper to figure out that many of the future aviation professionals we seek will find their way to that vocational destination via the astoundingly varied and oh-so accessible world of general aviation.
Yes, general aviation will be the key to continuing the progress we’ve seen in aerospace over the course of the past century. I have no doubt of that. Here’s something else I’m pretty rock solid on, and I’m willing to bet it’s a nuance of the shortage question you’ve never considered. We’re going to face a teacher shortage, too. In fact, we already are.
Think about it. Where are the teachers we’ll need to educate this next crop? Seriously. Where are they? Right now, nobody knows. There is no database that tracks the whereabouts of well educated, highly experienced aerospace professionals who are interested in teaching their replacements to step in and fill the coming void.
Understand, I’m not talking about flight instructors here — although some flight instructors may certainly fill the bill. No, I’m talking about a broad category of aviation and aerospace professionals who have the credentials to teach in high school and college environments.
And should it have escaped your attention, as it has with so many of our peers, high schools are increasingly seeing the benefit of providing their students with a clear path to a career in aerospace. The limiting factor is often the availability of qualified teachers.
There are a handful of colleges and universities that facilitate dual enrollment opportunities for high school students. That allows high schoolers with a strong sense of purpose and drive to take classes at their high school that count for college credit. These kids have an enormous leg-up on their peers, as you can imagine. But that opportunity disappears if a qualified teacher isn’t available.
So let me ask you, do you have a masters degree or better, and a desire to pass on the knowledge you’ve attained over the course of your career? Do you have 30 years in the cockpit, or crawling around in the belly of an aircraft making repairs? If so, it’s at least possible you may have earned a masters degree through the experience and insight you’ve gained over the decades.
Believe it or not, there are institutions of higher learning that are not only willing to talk to you about how you might put your experience to work training the next generation, they’re actively seeking you out. They just don’t know where to find you.
The upside of all this shortage talk is that you might find a way to put your own experience to work in a productive and profitable manner. The upside to the student body comes in the form of a living, breathing individual who can share real insight rather than just book learnin’ to a class that desperately wants to know what the job is really like.
Your involvement may also lead some of those next generation pilots, mechanics, engineers, designers, and administrators to a career they never would have been able to attain. Consider cost. Those students do, you can bet on that. So do their parents. For a kid of limited means, the idea of pursuing a career in aerospace is a virtual impossibility because of the cost of gaining the required education. Yet dual credit course opportunities at the high school level cost those students nothing. The school system and private donors are picking up that cost — in effect, opening doors to an otherwise unattainable future for some students.
Imagine, a student from a low-income background entering a college aerospace program with a bunch of credits already in the bank. That student doesn’t have to take as many classes. They don’t have to pay for as many classes. Their college education becomes less expensive and, therefore, more attainable because someone — maybe someone like you — decided to turn their retirement into a semi-retirement by teaching a class or two in the local high school’s dual-enrollment aerospace program.
It’s something to think about. It’s something to do. And it just might help fill those empty slots that you’ve been reading about so much. Heck, if you’re not sure who to call to see if you qualify, write me. There’s a link right there at the bottom of the page.