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Waypoint: Driving the message home

I have some interesting “stuff” on my desk. Some of these mementos have marked special occasions while others are presentations or gifts I am proud to display.


September 26, 2011
By Rob Seaman

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I have some interesting “stuff” on my desk. Some of these mementos have marked special occasions while others are presentations or gifts I am proud to display. But there’s one object that makes those who see it wonder about its relevance: a 1/18-scale model of a 1948 Tucker automobile.

waypoint  
 A post-secondary education is valuable, but it’s theoretical knowledge – it must be supplemented by real-life experience.


 

Why the model of a car that never went beyond initial production? The car was designed and built in the post-Second World War era by Preston Tucker. Tucker was a visionary and go-getter. He threw himself into every job and was not afraid to tackle impossible things. His 1948 Tucker Torpedo (as it was first called) introduced a number of revolutionary concepts in efficiency and safety that have been implemented into today’s automobiles. And if you believe the urban legend, the “Big Three” ganged up to use influence and politics to kill the Tucker.

To Tucker’s credit, all but two of the cars produced are still thought to be on the road today (or close to it). They are highly collectable and represent a significant part of automotive development. The man and the car represent things I have always held in high regard – dedication, commitment and pride in a job well done. The Tucker reminds me of what can be achieved when you really try.

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Thinking about what’s possible when hard work and ingenuity converge makes me wonder about where the aviation industry is headed – and I’m concerned. This industry is about to experience a shortage of qualified workers, and not just pilots, but engineers, avionics specialists, FBO personnel and more. It’s not because of a lack of jobs; it’s because people are unwilling to take these jobs. I’m specifically talking about entry-level or junior positions where younger employees must apply themselves to work their way up the ranks – like we all used to.

This concept seems preposterous to some young people today. Many entering the aviation field seem to feel a post-secondary degree is all that’s needed to ensure success. Yes, a post-secondary education is valuable, but it’s theoretical knowledge – it must be supplemented by real-life experience. High-paying jobs, perks – they must be earned, not handed out right out of the gate.

How do I formulate this opinion? It’s based on direct experience and sharing conversations with industry colleagues. In my world, I have been searching for FBO professionals for a couple of employers. The search has turned up viable candidates but it has also shown many fresh grads are not prepared to work for the starting salaries being offered. As one college educator and industry colleague stated, “it’s taking a while for them to realize that a ‘Director of’ title will not be added to their name right away. Soon after, though, many start to realize what roles they can fill and an entry-level job becomes a little more realistic.”

Associations like the Canadian Council for Aviation & Aerospace (CCAA) and the Air Transportation Association of Canada (ATAC) have long recognized these issues. These organizations are producing studies that highlight the future of this industry and the potential for human resource shortages.

For those who are willing to venture into the aviation ranks and take their less-than-ideal first job, here’s some sage advice. Remember it’s a small industry – so always give 100 per cent and be professional at all times. Second, recognize that any job you take is useful experience and can earn you a worthwhile reference. Finally, realize every bit of experience gained makes you more employable and professional.

Understanding these simple principles will make your journey infinitely more fruitful in the end. As they say in the theatre, “There are no small roles.”

And don’t forget about my hero, Preston Tucker. He started as an office boy with Cadillac and found that roller skates helped him get around the floor to do his job faster. He learned more that way. This same ingenuity and spirit helped him grow, develop skills and become more successful. Although he never made millions in the car industry, he did influence change – and still does today.

When evaluating your employment goal, ask yourself this: what’s the true value proposition of your career? I think you’ll find it all depends on how you measure success.


Rob Seaman is a Wings writer and columnist.


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