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Houston-based nonprofit recruits young women of color to be pilots

With a nationwide pilot shortage, experts said influencing the next diverse generation of professional pilots is important now more than ever.

HOUSTON — Aviation experts are predicting there will be a shortage of about 19,000 pilots globally by the end of 2022 and many of us are already feeling the effects of it.

A Houston-based non-profit called Sisters of the Skies is looking to address this problem. It involves inspiring young ladies to reach for the sky.

Less than one percent of professional pilots are women of color.

And with a nationwide pilot shortage, experts said influencing the next diverse generation of professional pilots is important now more than ever.

“The industry has another resource they can tap into to have pilots for their flight decks and that's what we are here to do,” said Nia Gilliam-Wordlaw.

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Gilliam is the co-founder of Sisters of the Skies and a long-time United airlines pilot.

“Prior to the pandemic, we were already facing a pilot shortage," Gilliam said. "The pandemic just exacerbated the situation."

Fast forward to 2022, where the demand for flights has skyrocketed ahead of summer travel, but the shortage of pilots to fly those planes still lingers.

“If there's not enough food to eat, we starve," Gilliam said. "So, if there's not enough pilots to fly these planes, we don't get to travel."

Since the group's founding in 2017, they've made it a mission to attract a new generation of pilots.

“Sisters of the Skies is here to give that dream some wings and get these young ladies exposed," Gilliam said.

Outreach events help young girls meet women who look just like them and get hands-on with the plane.

“I like looking at the inside and all the buttons. I feel comfortable here. I really like all the planes. It's cool,” said Callie Calloway, one of the many young girls interested in planes.

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On top of mentoring, and hosting events, Sisters of the Skies has given $1 million in flight scholarship money, thanks to corporate and community donations. 

“A lot of these young ladies don't just have the challenge financially, but they don't know that this career field exists,” said Gilliam.

In the financial, world experts always suggest you diversify your stock options, so that if something happens you don't lose everything.

“You don't want to put just one group of stocks in investing, one group of people flying a plane, because you're going to miss out on the big picture,” said Gilliam. 

Sisters of the Skies believes they can be a part of the pilot shortage solution in the long run. 

“Being one of the founders, it's so satisfying to see the young girls say how much they appreciate Sisters of the Skies. How much it's changed their lives,” said Gilliam. 

Click here to learn more about Sister of the Skies

Ugochi Iloka on social media: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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