ALPA Volunteers Take Part in OBAP Conference

By ALPA Staff
ALPA members gather at the Association’s booth during the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals’ 47th annual conference held in New Orleans, La. Front row, from left: Capt. John Hart (Mesa), Capt. John Tabet (Spirit), F/O Prithvi Bharadwaj (Wasaya), Capt. Kandy Bernskoetter (FedEx Express), and Capt. Finzo Hall (FedEx Express). Back row, from left: Capt. Erik Gott (FedEx Express), Capt. Cliff Curtis (United), F/O Kaori Paris (United), Capt. Tyler Hawkins (Frontier), and F/O Alex Gobern (United).

Celebrating more than 45 years of rich history dedicated to the encouragement and advancement of minorities in all aviation and aerospace careers, members of the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP) and the aviation community came together on August 9–11 in New Orleans, La., for the organization’s 47th annual conference. ALPA, as both an event sponsor and exhibitor, had members of the Membership and Diversity, Equity, Belonging, and Inclusion Committees present to greet attendees, share information about the Association, and discuss career options for those looking to begin or advance their airline piloting career.

Continuing OBAP’s mission to inspire excellence and provide opportunities in aerospace by supporting, transforming, educating, and mentoring its members and communities, the theme “Where Tradition Meets Tomorrow” was weaved throughout the event. Attendees ranging from seasoned aviation professionals to students met with recruiters and exhibitors over the three-day conference.

During a general membership meeting, OBAP leaders spoke about the challenges their organization has faced since 2020. Before the pandemic, OBAP functioned as an in-person organization, and it was greatly impacted by the social distancing brought about during the COVID pandemic. Forced to reevaluate the organization’s program and finances, OBAP leaders found ways to ensure that the legacy of the organization and its impact on future generations continue.

A proud organization that’s run by volunteers and supported in every aspect by its dedicated members, OBAP needed to transform its traditional methods of engagement to reach new members as well as continue to connect with current members. Online modules were created and others were redesigned with an overarching goal to overhaul OBAP’s digital presence and provide new ways to bridge the gap between face-to-face interactions and virtual options. These efforts also provided the organization an opportunity to redesign donor and grant management processes and refine sponsorship solicitation methods.

F/O Kaori Paris (United), left, speaks with a conference attendee about a career in aviation.

To communicate effectively, OBAP implemented a customer relationship management system to better understand who it represents. As a result, the organization now has data that allows it to gauge fundraising efforts and develop mentorship programs.

Capt. Joel Webley (FedEx Express), the chair of OBAP’s board, and F/O Tennesse Garvey (United), the programs director, have both benefited from OBAP mentorship and fully support the continued focus on finding ways to engage with young aviators. “All paths are different, and OBAP can help provide direction to the next generation so that they succeed in achieving their goals,” Webley remarked.

Recruiting at this event has helped many aspiring aviators to advance their careers. Capt. John Hart (Mesa), a returning OBAP member who met with recruiters last year, said, “I can’t express enough the deep gratitude I feel for OBAP. The encouragement and opportunity to network at the annual conference made all the difference for me. I was offered advice on my résumé and provided with interview tips that are making my career-progression goals a reality.”

OBAP reaches more than 100,000 youth and young adults through enrichment programs such as Aerospace Professionals in Schools by taking part in school visits, STEM events, and career fairs led by members and industry professionals. The organization also has a variety of workforce development models targeted to every age and experience level and professional development to continue career enhancement.

OBAP’s next annual conference will be held on Aug. 21–23, 2024, in Memphis, Tenn. Learn more about OBAP.

Want to Inspire and Mentor the Next Generation of Airline Pilots?

Contact ALPA’s Education Committee or visit the Cleared to Dream website for more information.

This article was originally published in the September 2023 issue of Air Line Pilot.

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