The “deglamourisation” of aviation has contributed significantly to the current talent shortage, according to one of the industry’s most high-profile career coaches.
Kirsty Ferguson, who heads Pinstripe Solutions, believes that the impact of furloughs and layoffs during COVID lockdowns shook the confidence of pilots and crew who believed they had solid jobs, leading many to leave the sector or seek greener pastures overseas.
However, she believes airlines are “doing some very good things at the moment to help the situation” and that constant consultation is a really important factor.
“We’ve got to know how our staff are feeling in order to know how to retain them and how to care for them, in order to provide the best service to our customers as well,” she said.
In 2021, 2,500 domestic and 6,000 international employees from Qantas and Jetstar alone were furloughed for several months during border closures despite the Morrison government’s airline relief package. About 10,000 staff and 6,000 contractors from Virgin Australia were impacted by the airline going into administration a year earlier.
“It’s not the secure career that a lot of aviators and aviation staff considered. They all had to go and get side hustles or go and do totally different roles during the pandemic, so I think some of that glamourisation of it and the security of being an awesome career path has slipped away,” said Ferguson.
“We’ve already had a lot of people exit the industry – I was surprised that those people who exited were as young as 30 going, ‘I’m not going to stick around and wait for the recovery. I can’t stay current. How do I stay current when I can’t even get into a flying role?’”
Additionally, Ferguson told Australian Aviation that many have been lured to America by the perks on offer, including the E-3 visa scheme.
“We’ve had a lot of talent go over to America, because they ramped up more quickly than we did. Understandably, they’re offering great bonuses, and they’re now offering amazing things like possible green cards and pathways to mainline carriers, not just regional,” she said.
“There’s all of these issues that have exacerbated a talent shortage around flight crew and cabin crew, and obviously, hires into other areas of aviation were impacted during the pandemic as well.”
She argues that that a key part of the recovery will be attracting new blood and persuading people that they can still make a career out of aviation.
“We have to get back to the grassroots. We have to go, ‘Alright, have you thought about this as a career?’ Yes, we’ve had a big glitch in what we were offering as an industry and what we were available to security-wise, but every industry has those,” she says.
“I’ve worked across a multitude of industries, so I know that most industries go through some sort of downturn, and in my time in aviation, we’ve had about f.ur, we always recover, and we always come back bigger and better.”
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