With the battle against ATC privatization behind it, the NBAA is turning its attention to the industry’s pressing shortage of pilots, mechanics and other professions. The need is immediate, NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen said in a presentation during the NBAA Regional Forum in West Palm Beach, Florida, on Feb. 6.

The issue will require bringing new people into the industry and it “means keeping the people we have.” In its efforts to grow the workforce, the NBAA is taking lessons learned from its fight to turn back an attempt to privatize air traffic control, which included involvement at a grassroots effort, Bolen said. The NBAA is focusing on attracting college students to make sure they are aware of the opportunities. Other organizations are targeting students in grade school, middle school and high school.

Lee Aerospace in Wichita knows the need all too well. The company has had to turn down work because of a shortage of aircraft and powerplant mechanics, Malissa Nesmith, vice president of marketing, said during a break at the company’s exhibit during the forum. “The only thing that’s limiting our growth is not being able to find the talent fast enough,” Nesmith said. It’s not for lack of trying, she added. “There’s so much demand for people right now.”

The NBAA is providing videos on the industry and other tools for use in the classroom and promoting internships, mentorships and best practices, Bolen said. About 250 students were in attendance at the NBAA regional event, which attracted 150 exhibitors and 35 aircraft on static display. Business aviation provides what young people are looking for: a chance to see the world, meet new people and do new things, Bolen said. It also meets their need to be involved with technology and with their desire to give back. “Business aviation gives young people an opportunity to experience life,” Bolen said. “Our young people want to be part of a community. They want to belong. We can offer that.”