A First-Class Experience

L&D professionals networked and discussed strategies to elevate their training at the Learning Leaders Summit hosted by JetBlue University.

Clear skies, bright sunshine, a light breeze, temperature near 70. It was perfect weather for flying—or attending the Learning Leaders Summit February 25 atJetBlue University on Hangar Boulevard (of course!) in Orlando, FL. The airline treated more than 100 Learning and Development (L&D) professionals to a first-class experience, including a guided tour of the training facility (featuring state-of-the art simulators, flight training devices, portions of planes, and the Uniform Store); a tasty networking lunch; and presentations from JetBlue Learning executives about culture, onboarding, and pilot training.

Sponsored by Adobe, the event also engaged attendees in discussions on topics such as emerging technologies (i.e., artificial intelligence, block-chain, and avatar coaches); the impact of diversity, equity, and inclusion programs; building a leadership academy; and identifying training gaps via the Training APEX Awards application process (visit https://apex.trainingmag.com/ to download the current application and scoring guidelines).

The Blue Juice

JetBlue prides itself on its culture—which arises from its mission to “inspire humanity,” explained JetBlue Learning Operations DirectorJefl’McGowan. “We inspire humanity because of how we treat each other and our customers. We do it by the little things that accumulate over time, such as greeting someone by name or helping them with a bag. Our values are what we call our ‘Blue Juice’: safety, caring, passion, integrity, and fun.”

Every other Wednesday, new hires are brought in for training for 1.5 days. “The night before the orientation, we hold a barbecue for them that is hosted by a VP or above,” McGowan said. “Day 1 focuses on the history of the company and industry, teamwork, culture, and customer needs. We require three VPs or above to be at each orientation. Day 2 is about benefits and operational and hospitality training.”

On the technical side of training, it’s all about finding the balance between the training and the most effective delivery device, said james Esther, director, Technical Learning,JetBlue Airways. A full flight simulator (purchase price of $12 to $15 million) costs $500 per hour to run, while a flight training device runs the same software but does not cost as much to operate. “We are using iPads to deliver more pilot training first as they can help develop mastery before pilots get into the simulator,” Esther noted. “And we are using Zenarate’s AI solution for feedback.”

In a Q&A with Adobe Director of Learning Evangelism Allen Partridge, Joseph Leslie, Global Platform lead at Publicis Groupe, talked about how the ad giant partnered with Microsoft to create Marcel, a proprietary AI-based productivity platform. “It’s important to remember that AI is everywhere, but it’s not everything,” he stressed. “We have to bake AI into emotional intelligence and leadership development. The key is to combine tech with human skills.”

Next Steps

Learning Leaders Summit attendees said they plan to implement the following upon returning to work:

  • Incorporate their organization’s culture and values into their training and include a “values activity” in onboarding/orientation.
  • Work with executives to include more physical management presence in onboarding.
  • Focus on DEI as a skill, create an inclusive calendar when scheduling team events, and solicit views of those who haven’t spoken or whose experience will be affected by a particular decision.
  • Create a leadership steering committee.
  • Upskill themselves on all things generative AI, but use it as a tool, not a necessity.
  • Ask skeptics in their organization to react to their learning solutions.
  • Leverage the Training APEX Awards application process to evaluate their learning initiatives.
A JetBlue University tour guide details “slide training.”
A JetBlue University tour guide details “slide training.”
Taking a turn at the controls in a flight training device.
Taking a turn at the controls in a flight training device.
Adobe’s Allen Partridge (at podium) and Publicis Groupe’s Joseph Leslie dive into AI.
Adobe’s Allen Partridge (at podium) and Publicis Groupe’s Joseph Leslie dive into AI.
Cheers to connecting at the networking reception!
Cheers to connecting at the networking reception!


Lorri Freifeld
Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.