Delta Ramps Up Technical Workforce Pipeline Efforts

Credit: Delta Air Lines

Delta Air Lines recently restarted a key part of its workforce pipeline efforts to introduce youth to aviation technical careers following a two-year pandemic hiatus. In partnership with the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP), ACE Academy and Solo Flight Academy, the airline hosted 72 students ages 13-18 to teach them about career pathways for aviation maintenance technicians (AMT), pilots and engineers.

The students toured the Delta TechOps facility in Atlanta, where maintenance personnel showed them its various departments and explained the role of AMTs. Delta Engineering gave the students a presentation about the role engineers play at the airline and shared their own career journeys. The students were also able to learn about pilot careers through hands-on learning in the cockpit and flight simulators.

As part of the program, students were also transported from Atlanta to the Duluth Air National Guard Base via the airline’s annual Dream Flight, a special charter flight that transports students to an aviation-themed destination. Students were able to tour the base, meet U.S. Air Force Thunderbird pilots and watch an airshow featuring F-35 fighter jets.

The Dream Flight was piloted by Delta First Officer Anya Kearns, who graduated from the ACE and Solo Flight academies as a teenager. Kearns says the programs “introduced me to people who looked like me and had the same background as me, [and] were successful in this field.” She adds that this experience gave her the confidence to believe she could also pursue an aviation career.

According to Delta, the program is part of its ongoing efforts to grow workforce and increase diversity, equity and inclusion at the company. “As Delta seeks to widen its talent pipeline, including more inclusive hiring protocols, the OBAP partnership is more vital than ever,” says a spokesperson for the airline. “It’s one piece in Delta’s youth pipeline strategy to make aviation careers more accessible and to identify, select and develop the next generation of pilots.”

The airline has been partnered with OBAP for more than 21 years, during which it has provided immersive learning opportunities about aviation careers to more than 4,000 students. It also has K-12 programs in place with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, YMCA, Women in Aviation International, National Flight Academy and school counselor associations.

To reach young women, Delta works with nonprofit Stars of the North, which seeks to increase female participation in aviation and aerospace. As part of this partnership, Delta provided a tour on July 13 and it will have representatives in place at Flying Cloud Airport in Eden Prairie, Minnesota on Sept. 24 for Girls in Aviation Day.

Delta is also working with more than 50 partner schools through its TechOps Career Pathway Programs to create a workforce pipeline of future AMTs. Under these programs, A&P graduates and veterans can work toward a Delta TechOps career through two different pathways. In the first pathway, program participants work for 6-12 months as an aircraft support mechanic (ASM) through an on-the-job training program for one of the airline’s partner companies. They can then move on to an ASM role at Delta before becoming eligible for an AMT position at the airline. In the second pathway, participants work as an AMT at Delta subsidiary Endeavor Air for 18 months before becoming eligible for an AMT role at Delta.

Delta TechOps has been increasing its hiring efforts to meet growing demand. Last year it announced plans to hire up to 1,000 new mechanics, technicians and other staff by the end of the year. In Boeing’s latest Pilot and Technician Outlook, released July 25, the OEM predicted demand for 610,000 maintenance technicians over the next two decades.

Lindsay Bjerregaard

Lindsay Bjerregaard is managing editor for Aviation Week’s MRO portfolio. Her coverage focuses on MRO technology, workforce, and product and service news for, Aviation Week Marketplace and Inside MRO.