Attracting young talent to aeronautics
According to the Social Cognitive Career Theory (SCCT), the career and/or academic choices of young people are influenced by personal, cognitive and contextual factors and form gradually more consciously from childhood and primary school, through teenage and secondary school to adulthood and university, as proposed by the Life Span, Life Span Theory. Therefore, to attract young talent to the aerospace sector, we may start at an early life stage and always keep in mind the fours factors from SCCT that help identify and understand the reasons why students pursue a university course: prior experience, social support, self-efficacy, and outcome expectation. From an early age, aerospace can quickly enter the imagination of children, as shown by the story of the "Petit Prince" created by the aviator François Saint-Exupéry in the setting of the Moon. It is imaginative to build wings of wax to fly higher and higher; and tragic if the heat of the sun melts them and causes a fall.
On the one hand, it warns of the risks of flying; on the other hand, it is a story with a tragic end. Without venturing into controversial realism, there is in phantasy world plenty of room for flying machines and travels to space objects. As years pass by, the basic teaching of Science, Technology, Engineering and
Mathematics (STEM), even at secondary school level, can lead to some understanding of flying in the atmosphere and traveling in space. Before choosing what studies to pursue in university, young people need prior experiences in the subject, meaning that we should promote the exposure to aerospace matters before university. In this case, it is possible to explain why balloons fly up in air; to build some paper planes, small drones or airplanes; to explain how the earth moves around the sun and the seasons; the motion of the moon around the earth and the moon cycle; the rotation of the earth and the daily cycle. All these kinds of activities can be included in school curricula or only occur in leisure times at school or outside the school with the families since they are crucial to provide students with initial impressions and information. At the same time, social support from parents, educators, and peers should be guaranteed, and these people should be made more aware of the benefits and career opportunities of the
aerospace sector. After finishing secondary school, students have a vast and sometimes bewildering choice of university degrees to apply for, even restricting to STEM the options can be numerous and confusing. Therefore, young people should be encouraged by their parents, educators, and peers to pursue careers in aerospace and, for this to happen, on the one hand, the numerous careers in the sector should be spread in terms of their variety, characteristics, work conditions, and education needs. On the other hand, the sector should be promoted as technological advanced, one of the most interdisciplinary branches of engineering, an enabler of a variety of vehicles and, finally, an opportunity to integrate all these technologies in a vehicle that is safe, efficient and environmentally friendly while allowing fast travel to a wide range of destinations, some previously inaccessible. Finally, the fascinating promise of aerospace engineering or related courses must be delivered in a high-quality university or vocational courses that give the necessary knowledge, skills, and ability to reason and work in all these disciplines and their combination.