- As of 2022, family members of JetBlue employees can tap into the airline's resources with the "Gateway Families: Flight Ops" program. Building on foundations of previous L&D programs, this recruiting initiative gives children and step-children, spouses, siblings and parents of JetBlue crewmembers an expedited path to become a JetBlue first officer.
- Overall, JetBlue's upskilling approach touts education for both internal and external audiences. These programs were all born from Gateway University. Founded in 2008, this pipeline initiative allows college students to secure experience, a direct path to JetBlue officership and a mentor to aid them in the process.
- In 2021, the airline added its first historically Black college or university, Hampton University, and its first Hispanic-serving institution, Inter American University of Puerto Rico to the JetBlue Gateways program.
Although JetBlue has been helping careers take flight for a while, the company's continued investment in learning and development is a reminder to talent acquisition professionals: upskilling can be one answer to a company's talent problem.
In JetBlue's case, 12% of pilots newly hired in 2021 were funneled from a JetBlue Gateways program. The company's upskilling and retention efforts are noteworthy, particularly because the airline industry has also been plagued with a labor shortage due to COVID-19.
American Airlines CEO Doug Parker testified before Congress back in December 2021, telling the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, "We need people to want to pick up additional shifts." Speaking to the slew of flights canceled due to winter storms, the CEO explained that American Airlines had enough pilots and staff to run operations under normal circumstances – but not with inclement weather conditions.
Scott Kirby, CEO of United Airlines, said his company was more cautious with scheduling flights, due to the lack of resources. He explained that pilot hopefuls typically spend $150,000 to receive training – six figures that aren't typically covered by student loans, he added. The two CEOs, as well as Delta and Southwest leadership, told Congress they're all taking steps to train more pilots.
"We know that there is no single route to a career in aviation, but we do believe there should be a path available for anyone with the aptitude and passion to pursue it," JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes said in the March 2022 press release. "Our Gateway programs have been removing many barriers of entry that often ground talented individuals before their dreams can even take flight.|
One expert told HR Dive last year that a culture of learning is crucial for hiring and retention. For example, job listings that ask for "self-starter" candidates or those that can "hit the ground running" can often scare away desirable candidates. In essence, if those buzzwords are red flags for job candidates, green flags look more like an inclusive company culture and a clearly demonstrated interest in employee development.
The cost of recruiting, vetting potential hires and onboarding the new employee can be steep; nurturing the career aspirations of existing employees may end up being more cost-effective for HR departments.