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Changemakers: JetBlue Helps ‘Crewmembers’ Navigate the Future of Work with College Access

February 5, 2021

At a Glance

Despite intense financial headwinds, this Impact Employer helps employees develop new skills and build a path to a college degree.

Carey O'Connor
Practices & Centers

COVID-19 caused commercial air travel to evaporate overnight. Now, nearly a year into the pandemic, airlines are operating with a fraction of prior customer demand. Many have gone out of business, and those still operating are facing deep financial challenges. In the fight to survive, some airlines are suspending flights, grounding aircraft, leaving markets, and laying off employees. Each airline is navigating these difficult cost-cutting choices in its own unique way, shaped by its leadership, culture, and values.

JetBlue, the fifth largest U.S. airline, exemplifies what it means to be an Impact Employer while under intense financial pressure.

Celebrating its 21th anniversary, the airline currently serves destinations in the United States, the Caribbean, and Latin America. Although human capital represents approximately a quarter of its cost structure, the company has held the line against involuntary furloughs of “crewmembers” (as it calls all of its employees), fighting to maintain its 21-year history without involuntary layoffs. Even more impressive, JetBlue remains committed to continuing the JetBlue Scholars program, an innovative academic initiative that has helped more than 250 JetBlue crewmembers earn a college degree since its launch in 2016.

So pre-COVID how did a global airline create a best-in-class employer-sponsored college degree program and how has the program been impacted by COVID-19? JFF’s Carey O’Connor recently spoke with Kristy VanAlstyne, director, talent management at JetBlue and the leader behind JetBlue Scholars, in an exclusive interview published on Medium.

“JetBlue, JPMorgan Chase, Mastercard, and Prudential Financial Join Coalition to Invest in Employee Well-Being”
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