Mentoring Is an Essential Component of the ALPA Experience

By Capt. Sean Creed, ALPA Vice President–Administration/Secretary

It’s been said that behind every successful person is a mentor who believed in them. ALPA’s founders embraced this idea on a larger scale, recognizing that by working together and pooling their resources, all of the Association’s pilots could benefit from the knowledge and experience found within a single union. The premise that we’re stronger together continues to be an organizational rallying cry, and the need for mentoring has never been more important.

As I acknowledged in my recent report to the Association’s Executive Board, ALPA gained more than 11,000 pilots in the last year. These new faces present tremendous opportunities for the Association. Yet many have never encountered an organized labor environment prior to their airline experience. We must educate these members about the advantages of belonging to a union and the many functions ALPA performs, including negotiating enhancements to their pay, working conditions, and quality of life; advancing important measures to ensure that airline flying remains the safest mode of transportation; and protecting the profession from those willing to sacrifice safety and security in the interest of increasing the corporate bottom line.

To respond to this onboarding need, the Association is in the process of fine-tuning content and tools pilot groups can access to build mentoring programs and supplement networks they’ve already created. To set the tone for this effort, ALPA hosted its first-ever Mentoring Seminar on June 20–21 at the United pilots’ Master Executive Council offices in Chicago, Ill. This event provided pilot group Membership Committee chairs the opportunity to discuss and compare existing mentorship programs, related IT platforms, and lessons learned to date.

To better support mentoring efforts, ALPA is leveraging its e-mail distribution system, Real Magnet, to implement “drip” campaigns—personalizing automated messaging for new hires based on each pilot group’s onboarding schedule. These communications highlight the Association’s many benefits and resources and offer prescribed actions new-hire pilots can take to enhance their ALPA experience.

Along with Real Magnet, Qooper mentoring software is being tested for certain pilot groups, allowing them to more efficiently pair new hires with assigned mentors. This software will allow us to begin tracking new members as they begin their career at their carrier and hopefully volunteer. When they transition to their next carrier, we’ll know who they are and encourage previous volunteers to do so again at their new airline. Tracking our members in this manner was identified as a priority in the 2022 update to ALPA’s strategic plan.

In recent years, the enormous movement of pilots transitioning to airlines that fly larger aircraft has created sizable vacancies for many of our smaller to mid-size pilot groups. These departures have resulted in the loss of both hands-on experience and institutional knowledge in key leadership and committee positions. In addition to other available support programs, Qooper will help the union make the most of pilot experience at each property.

Another tool at the Association’s disposal is ALPA 101 online training. Supplementing the union’s extensive in-person training opportunities and the support available through the national committee structure, ALPA 101 provides a cloud-based platform for the administration, documentation, tracking, reporting, automation, and delivery of tailored training modules. Applications can address a host of purposes including basics like maximizing vacation and schedule-bidding efforts.

ALPA 101 is particularly useful for probationary members the Association has prioritized engaging with in a new way. Modules can be tailored to accommodate different experiences, and sessions are provided as part of what the union refers to as its ALPA Academy, offering ongoing education and training to address pilot needs throughout an ALPA member’s experience.

In addition to onboarding ALPA pilot group new hires, the union works through the Professional Development Group’s Education Committee to ensure that students and others interested in airline flying careers understand what’s expected of them and have the support they need to be successful.

Mentoring emphasizes the value of ALPA membership and enhances pilot engagement, participation, and volunteer effectiveness. It’s just one more example of the Association’s pilots serving pilots philosophy.

This article was originally published in the June 2024 issue of Air Line Pilot.

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