Atlas and Polar Expose Students to Breadth of Careers in Aviation Industry at Los Angeles World Airport’s Annual ACE Academy

As summer vacation got into full swing at schools across the U.S., middle and high school aviation enthusiasts signed up to attend one more week of classes though ACE (Aviation Careers Education) Academy.

Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), the oversight organization encompassing Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and Van Nuys Airport (VNY), convenes ACE Academy annually for students interested in learning about careers across the aviation industry.

Typically an in-person, week-long event with classroom sessions and field trips to the Airport Operations Area (AOA), this was the second year ACE Academy was run virtually – and the first time ever that air cargo was included in the lineup.

“Facilitating the LAX ACE Academy virtually allowed our team to introduce aviation industry careers to a broader geographical range of middle and high school students who might otherwise not have a chance to learn of the variety of careers within the field. Aviation leaders were able to engage in dialogue with students from our local communities, as well as other parts of the country,” said Amy Imamura, LAX Community Relations Director, who oversees the event.

“We were absolutely thrilled to add air cargo to the agenda this year,” Amy continued. “It opened up an entirely new path for students to consider, and the Atlas and Polar speakers inspired such good discussion and questions among the students.”

Atlas and Polar developed a program about the vast breadth of air cargo careers, including a panel featuring Air Cargo experts in Ground Ops, Tech Ops, Station Management and Business Development. In addition, a video full of career advice was shared with the students from Atlas and Polar employees in roles from 767 Captain to Systems Operations & Training and Commercial Operations around the world. The speakers shared their professional background, what they love about the aviation industry and some advice for the students about pursuing a career in aviation.

A common thread across each of the speakers’ remarks was that no two days are ever the same; the fast-paced dynamic airfreight environment presents many opportunities; and students should be open to trying new things.

Atlas and Polar Team Members Speak with ACE Academy Students

Advice and career observations shared included:

“My one piece of advice for you would be to study hard, stick with the books and get good grades, and maybe one day you’ll be up here with us, flying around the world to different destinations”
Atlas 767 Captain Justin Lagotic

“If you ask what my typical day is, I would say – and I think all of us today would agree – no two days are ever alike, and that’s part of what I love. I really applaud the students here today because they are already exploring the field of aviation. Keep trying new things until you find what you love to do and then it’s not work – it’s an adventure.”
Atlas Vice President of Ground Operations Jeff Riddel

“I love problem solving, whether its engineering problems, technical issues or just business problems, I love the challenge of coming up with solutions… that next thing that keeps me energized and going. Love what you do and if it’s problem solving, great. If it’s flying at high altitudes, wonderful. Whatever it is, there are opportunities that will find you.”
Atlas Senior Vice President of Tech Ops Lillian Dukes

“As a woman in the air cargo field, I’ve had an interesting journey. There are more women now than there have ever been. Inclusive teams bring new and creative thinking to our industry. My advice to you all is no matter what you are doing, ask lots of questions, speak up, share your ideas and push yourself a little bit out of your comfort zone – that’s when opportunities open up.”
Polar Director of Sales Carrie Lau

160 students from grades 6 through 12 were online and engaged with the Atlas and Polar speakers during the session.

“It was great to expose these students to so many interesting aspects of the air cargo industry,” said Polar Sales Director Eddie Nagahashi, who moderated the virtual panel. “I’m so glad we had the chance to collaborate across Polar and Atlas on this initiative, and I hope we can do it again next year!”