Four Embry-Riddle alumni are part of a new 20-member task force charged with developing strategies and processes that will encourage high school students to explore and pursue aviation-related careers.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao announced on July 17 the formation of the Youth Access to American Jobs in Aviation Task Force (YIATF). The following Embry-Riddle Eagles are among those who were selected to serve: Joanne “Jo” Damato (’04), vice president of educational strategy and workforce development for the National Business Aviation Association; Kasey Herzberg (’06), director of engineering for Aircraft Data Fusion; Nancy Shane Hocking (’07), manager of Pilot Gateway programs for JetBlue Airways; and John Hornibrook (’19), vice president of flight operations for Horizon Air.
Herzberg, who earned a Master of Aeronautical Science (MAS) from Embry-Riddle, says she is honored to be a part of the task force that’s creating a vision to help build the next generation of aviation leaders.
In addition to her role as director of engineering at Aircraft Data Fusion, she is executive director of the Challenger Learning Center of Minnesota, a nonprofit that inspires and engages youth in STEM education. “This is an exciting industry with so many incredible areas of opportunity beyond just the cockpit. It is imperative that we build a strategy to ensure youth have access to opportunities that expose and inspire them early on,” Herzberg says.
Shane Hocking, who also earned an MAS from Embry-Riddle and holds a Ph.D. in Aerospace Sciences from the University of North Dakota, agrees. She’s been involved in research on pilot sourcing, hiring and performance, and in her role at JetBlue, she oversees programs that help prospective pilots make their way to a JetBlue flight deck.
“I’m looking forward to working with this amazing group to expand aviation career pathways for every young person who has ever dreamed about taking to the skies,” Shane Hocking says.
The YIATF will work to develop and provide recommendations to the Federal Aviation Administration to: increase the number of high school students taking STEM courses leading to a career in aviation; encourage and support students to pursue aviation programs of study; and identify strategies and opportunities for apprenticeships and workforce development programs that lead to employment.
Damato, a certified aviation manager with a MAS from Embry-Riddle, says she was that “15-year-old high-schooler,” who was inspired to pursue a career in aviation but her family, teachers and guidance counselors lacked the resources and information to help her start the journey. “I want to pay it forward,” she says, “to make the path into the industry clearer, especially for underrepresented groups and individuals.”