Nolen Advises To 'Go Where Audience Is' To Build Workforce

 - January 23, 2023, 10:12 AM
An FAA campaign looked to TikTok and gamers to recruit air traffic controllers and results far exceeded the agency's expectations, according to acting Administrator Billy Nolen. (Photo: FAA)

FAA acting Administrator Billy Nolen stressed the importance of “thinking outside of the box” as the industry attempts to bring in new talent and build the workforce. The agency has learned that “you’ve got to go where the audience is,” Nolen said during an RTCA webinar on Wednesday. “Chances are the people we need are probably not on this [webinar].”

He cited as an example an FAA campaign to recruit air traffic control candidates. “When we were looking to…bring on the next generation of air traffic controllers, we went to TikTok influencers to help get the word out. We went to gamers to tell us…some of the skillsets.”

Using that approach, the FAA went out with a campaign. “We thought, okay, we’d get maybe 10,000 applications,” he said. Instead, the agency received nearly 850,000 hits on its site and 60,000 applications for 1,500 controller jobs. He said this shows what happens when “you think differently.”

He added that the applications represented a diverse field that included “incredible numbers” of females and underrepresented minorities. Such a field is critical, he added. “If we've got a diversity of opinion, a diversity of background, a diversity of ideas coming into the fore, that's the kind of atmosphere you need in which to grow.”

The FAA’s approach is to proactively try to make sure that the workplace reflects the public at large, Nolen said. He added, “We want talented professionals wherever we can find them to be part of this agency and the industry. We’ve got to go meet them where they are and find ways to bring them in and they can help us.”