Providing Lift to the Next Generation of Aviation Professionals

Editor’s Note: At Atlas, we know our industry is dependent on the future workforce, and we are investing in talent pipeline development for all aviation professions — from exploration opportunities for K-12 students to supporting career development for adult learners. We also are forging new relationships with aviation colleges and universities developing ways to break down the barriers to employment that many students face.  One example is the Road to Giant Pilot Pathway Scholarship Program. This $10k non-returnable, non-binding (not connected to employment) scholarship, aims to encourage those with a love for aviation to continue their education to become professional pilots and to inspire students from under-represented groups to consider opportunities at Atlas Air. 

Atlas and Polar employees recently worked with the Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) to develop and plan the 2022 Aviation Careers Academy (ACE Academy). Middle school and high school students from communities surrounding Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) were invited to a week-long program designed to inspire interest in aviation by showcasing LAX and the many career opportunities available throughout the industry.

This year’s ACE Academy ran from June 20 through 24 and welcomed 80 students representing diverse backgrounds and experiences. Students who registered for the program included 28% who identify as female, 5% who identify as non-binary, 38% who identify as Hispanic or Latino and 22% who identify as black or African American. More than 80% indicated plans to pursue college or university degrees.

The program included four days of online programming and virtual discussions with aviation professionals. The themes this year included General Aviation; Aviation and STEM; and Taking Flight, which featured a pilot panel as well as a discussion of airline operations and aviation security. One day was dedicated to the Future of Aviation. The week culminated with a tour of the Polar Warehouse at LAX for select students who applied to participate.

“There is nothing more inspiring than seeing young people develop an affinity for aviation,” said Camille Fleenor, Vice President of Government Affairs. “We need the next generation of achievers to consider the many opportunities that aviation has to offer. By partnering with LAWA on their ACE Academy, we are showcasing the many careers that make up aviation, including air cargo.

“I am especially thankful for my colleagues who participated in this year’s program including Chief Pilot Laurie Ruiz De Castilla, who participated in the Pilot Panel, along with LAX Polar Station Manager, Erik Sitka, and Senior Director of Security, Jorge Rosales, who were featured during a discussion about aviation careers. Both Erik and Jorge spoke about their education, past work, military experience and the path that led them to their current responsibilities. I would also like to thank Director of Station Operations, Ernie Papagno, and LAX Atlas Station Manager, Jim Li, who helped plan the station tour.”

Erik and Jim led the tour of the Polar Warehouse, which offered the students an up-close walk around a 747-8 as it was being loaded.

“The students were really excited to walk under and around the freighter that was present that morning. I was impressed with the range of questions they had about the plane, the engines and how we plan for and load cargo,” Erik said.

The tour continued to the warehouse, where the students were able to observe a K-9 presentation that showed how highly trained dogs are used for identifying dangerous/prohibited items in the cargo we carry. The warehouse tour also included a showcase of the scales and how cars are driven onto and secured to ULDs (Unit Load Devices).

“It was refreshing to see the level of interest, knowledge and excitement among these young people. It was clear that the students already had a robust interest in aviation, which is what our industry needs,” he said.

To learn more about the 2022 ACE Academy, please visit LinkedIn.