I remember when I was applying to postsecondary schools way too long ago to mention-- we had to send away for brochures, flip through multiple catalogs and navigate the maze of hearsay about career choices and educational decisions. Walking into a guidance counselor's office was always a new experience because there would be dozens of old, new and tantalizing pamphlets discussing where I should be taking my life in order to "make something of myself" after high school.
There were, of course, those classmates who knew exactly what they wanted to be when they grew up. I was jealous of those kids because I didn't think I had that vision. I loved too many things to be able to choose. Some of my friends didn't love anything and had no idea what to choose. Other people's parents made the choice for them.
The tools that are available nowadays for kids to pick a future are immeasurably more infinite than the tools I had. Nobody has to mail away for a course catalog; you just have to click for a PDF. Nobody has to call past graduates to get the real story about how they felt about a school; online reviews, message boards and social media apps are all on everyone's phone. Nobody has to ask their parent, teacher or Dad's business partner if they knew where to find out about a desired career training choice and how serious or lackluster some training programs are; we just Google it.
A dynamic and engaging online presence is crucial to the success of any business. But how do you go beyond that presence? How do you expand who you are to the community around you, and in the process, open people's eyes to the design of and enthusiasm about their own future?
When we do our Open Houses at Academy of Aviation, we want to expose people to the excitement and benefits of changing their lives and learning to become an airline pilot, as our chosen place in the world is to teach people this skill either for fun or for a career. We want to expose people to the achievable dream that they may have had when they were kids. We want to tell them about the hows and whys that choosing to go to a flight school delivers. We want to give people options about the time, cost and future opportunities. Open Houses are always free for anyone, and we are sincerely proud that even in the middle of winter in New York, we can attract a large number of people who have the dream to change their lives.
But we also like to go beyond the Open House model. For example, our Charlotte/Gastonia location is an example of a flight school expanding the scope of just being a school and entering the role of neighborhood patron. From our First Responders Appreciation Day:
... to inviting the National Summer Transportation Institute to tour the campus and airfield along with area high school students, we hope to both inspire young people and their parents to realize that becoming a pilot is something that anyone can achieve, as well as energize other organizations such as flight schools, trade schools and technical schools to open themselves up to the idea that we are all responsible for leading curious kids on the paths that are fascinating them.
A successful online presence is a successful community presence, and we'll always challenge ourselves to discover ways to enrich the community where we live as well as the aviation community in general.