JetBlue Looks to Meet Demand for More Pilots and Maintenance Technicians
POSTED December 11, 2021
JetBlue has shown that airlines can meet the growing need for aviation professions through programs that offer a range of pathways into the industry, while also opening the door to more candidates from underrepresented communities, including women and people of color.
JetBlue Gateways program offers seven distinct education and training paths to becoming a JetBlue pilot or maintenance technician. JetBlue's program is the longest running US airline program, which produces a significant number of new hire pilots for an airline. 12% of JetBlue's new hire pilots to date in 2021 came to the airline through one of these non-traditional programs and the pipeline for both pilots and maintenance technicians continues to grow:
"As travel rebounds and we prepare for growth from our Northeast Alliance with American Airlines, we need to ensure a pipeline of qualified pilots and technicians over the next several years," said Warren Christie, head of safety, security and fleet operations, JetBlue. "Successful candidates will not only be skilled in their craft but also reflect JetBlue's culture, and through the Gateways programs, we can invest in our future crewmembers from day one."
Women and people of color have typically been under-represented within the pilot and maintenance technician professions. JetBlue is breaking down the barriers to find candidates from all background who exhibit the skill and aptitude to take on these high-quality and high paying airline jobs.
This year, JetBlue welcomed to the company its first Gateway Select pilots. These 28 pilots are the first to complete the airline's groundbreaking ab initio program, first announced in 2016. With Gateway Select, candidates with little or no flying experience but demonstrate the aptitude of a JetBlue pilot, can secure a path to land first officer status.
"Gateway Select was the perfect opportunity that presented a structured path to a dream job, said First Officer Philip Carroll, JetBlue. "I can't discount the relationships and support network JetBlue provided. Though the course was challenging, we covered everything needed to prepare for a great career."
"When we first announced Gateway Select, it was a radical new concept in the United States," Christie said. "We've proven that with the right selection criteria and our structured training approach, we can move highly trained and qualified pilots into the flight deck. What's even more exciting is that we see growing participation from underrepresented communities with women and people of color making up more than 53% of our Gateway Select classes, either in training or currently flying for JetBlue. This growing diversity which far exceeds industry averages is not only more reflective of the communities we serve, it shows the value and potential of expanding our search for tomorrow's aviation professionals."
JetBlue Reaches Diverse Students Through Gateway University
JetBlue partners with aviation college and university programs to provide flight majors with an opportunity to apply and be offered a conditional job offer for pilot positions with JetBlue, while still enrolled in college. Upon successful completion of JetBlue s prescribed path, candidates become first officers with the airline. All Gateway University partners are accredited by the Aviation Accreditation Board International (AABI).
JetBlue has recently added four new partners to the program: Farmingdale State College and Kent State University, as well as two minority serving institutions, Vaughn College, and Hampton University. Hampton also has the distinction of being the first HBCU to join Gateway University.
"We are extremely proud to be welcoming these four institutions to our pathways, especially as we work to attract a broader and more diverse pool of students into the aviation profession," Christie said. "Through Gateway University, we offer aviation students a job as a pilot while they are still in school, based on completion of the program. JetBlue offers support and mentorship throughout the rigorous program starting on day one to ensure students success. This is not only an investment in these students, but also the future of industry."
Pathways Just for JetBlue Crewmembers and Their Families
In keeping with JetBlue's culture of caring and commitment to employee development, JetBlue has been building a range of pathways for its crewmembers. With Gateway Direct and Gateway Flex, JetBlue is now offering multiple paths for crewmembers to develop the skills they need to become a pilot or maintenance technician with up to a one year leave of absence from the airline as they begin their programs.
"I was terrified to start over with a career change," said First Officer Ashley Zook, who transitioned from her role as a JetBlue operations manager, "The Gateway program gave me a clear understanding of my pathway from start to finish. I look back with gratitude for the mentors who guided me and feel honored to help others inspired to do the same."
New this year, Gateway Direct offers crewmembers an established structure with a JetBlue partner college and specific program criteria and requirements to build experience with a partner airline, while Gateway Flex offers flexibility for crewmembers to choose their own training location and avenue to build experience.
Gateway Direct also supports JetBlue's reimagined diversity, equity and inclusion strategy, helping to remove barriers to entry, such as costs associated with training for careers as pilots and technicians. This effort is underscored by an average of 40% women accepted into the first two Gateway Direct pilot classes, showing a much more representative demographic for candidates than is seen nationally through traditional pilot hiring channels.
Following a competitive selection process designed specifically to identify those who possess the competencies to be successful pilots, JetBlue selected its first 20 crewmembers through Gateway Direct. The first class began their pilot training in August with the next class of candidates starting training in January 2022. The first class of maintenance technician candidates will also start training in 2022.
Launching in 2022, JetBlue will also be encouraging the aviation dreams of crewmember relatives with Gateway Family. Crewmembers with aspiring pilots at home can now offer them access to the same opportunities afforded to JetBlue crewmembers.
"These programs open the door to training, but one of the biggest hurdles for our crewmembers is often the cost of education," Christie said. "We don't want money to be the roadblock for crewmembers who dream of being a pilot or technician. We have established partnerships with financial institutions where JetBlue backs most or all of a candidate's student loans, making financing accessible to many more people who otherwise wouldn't be able to secure a loan for flight training. With access to funding and a job commitment at the end of the process, we are able to break down the biggest barriers to these rewarding aviation professions."
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