Guy Leitch – The years immediately following Covid-19 are going to show tremendous industry growth with the attendant opportunities for a productive and rewarding career in aviation.

Pilots may be the face of the airline industry but there are many other opportunities.

THE COVID PANDEMIC has pressed the pause button on the pending pilot shortage, but as the airline industry returns to previous levels of flying the shortage will become more acute than ever.

If you’re looking to build a career in aviation, a slow browse through the pages of our October issue (See link in our FaceBook page) with a pencil and pad will open up many opportunities for you.

Before the arrival of the Covid pandemic the aviation industry was awash with predictions of

a massive impending skills shortage. The only way the industry is going to be able to address this pending shortage is by dramatically ramping up training to ensure an ongoing flow of new professionals into the industry.

Not Only Pilots

When you hear the words ‘aviation industry’, the first reaction is to think ‘pilot’. But aviation is an enormous industry and accordingly has a requirement for an imposing spread of skills.

From the front to the rear of an aircraft, and from the ground up to its cruise altitude, there are people, skills and jobs that are the mainstay of the industry. These are the maintenance technicians, ground-handlers, loadmasters, despatchers, meteorologists, check-in, passenger handling, cabin crew, pilots, traffic controllers, administration, caterers – the list is a long one and includes such a wide range of skills that almost anyone can find a suitable aviation career in which to get qualified.

‘the aviation industry was awash with predictions’

Pre-Covid, in 2018, Boeing’s Pilot and Technician Outlook projected a demand for 790,000 new pilots over the next 20 years. In five years’ time this demand will become critical as those who left the industry, either due to retirement or for greener pastures, will need to be replaced.

Boeing’s number of 790,000 new pilots is double the current workforce and the most significant demand in the Outlook’s nine-year history. And it’s not only the ‘pointy end’ that will need more people.

Demand for maintenance engineers is projected at 622,000, and commercial cabin crew a staggering 858,000 people, mostly due to changes in fleet mix, regulatory requirements, denser seat configurations and multi-cabin configurations that offer more personalised service.

Pilots

The business aviation and civil helicopter sectors will need an additional 155,000 pilots, 132,000 technicians and 32,000 new cabin crew. The demand is being driven by an anticipated doubling of the global commercial aircraft fleet, a record-high air travel demand and a tightening labour supply.

The forecast excludes general aviation (GA) requirements which swells the numbers significantly as not every pilot is employed by a carrier, some fly (and own) aircraft purely for small business reasons or the joy of flight. But the support system for GA is as intensive as for commercial carriers with an ever-growing number of aircraft needing pilots, maintenance, traffic control, administration and supply, as well as airfields to land, and on which to be based.

Boeing’s numbers are in line with industry projections from other bodies given to crystal ball gazing, and they all agree on one inescapable fact – we will have to train millions of new people to fill the slots of a skills-hungry industry. And therein lies our biggest challenge – and our biggest problem.

There are many jobs other than pilots.

‘there has never been a better time than now’

To remain viable in facing the challenge, training organisations are dependent on two main resources: an ongoing flow of dedicated new students and a stable supply of qualified trainers. However, most of the potential students are unaware of the career opportunities in aviation, and the qualified trainers are being head-hunted by the industry to fill the jobs for which they’re training the students. This creates a revolving door of instructors and gives training organisation management sleepless nights. There is no “quick fix’ solution to either of these challenges.

Some enterprising organisations have addressed the problem by elevating successful student graduates to instructor positions. This, to some measure ‘insulates’ them from the head-hunters as they are often invisible to the industry workplace and can also be contracted to their employer with ‘golden handcuffs’ such as scholarships and student loans.

Amongst all of these is the person who is the jewel in the crown of a training organisation – a dedicated trainer. These are people who derive their personal and career satisfaction, not from doing the job, but from enabling and empowering others to do the job. To a large extent, the success of the training component of the aviation industry will rest on the shoulders of the ‘dedicated’ trainers.

Africa

Africa has a massive opportunity in its relatively unskilled population, and it is here that we should look to bridging the skills gap in the aviation industry.

Many Africans are unaware that they could be aviation professionals and those that are, often do not have access to the funds needed for the qualifications. This creates opportunities for a spread of sub-industries to increase awareness that their dream is in fact possible and then supply the funding and support mechanisms while the student qualifies.

There is also scope for public private partnerships (PPP) where governments could unlock some of their higher education budget to be applied to skills training under administration by approved Aviation Training Organisations (ATOs).

Are you the Right Type?

A huge break for the aviation industry is that there is no special type or basic personality needed for an individual to find a suitable career. The demands for skills is so wide that there is likely to be a job for anyone irrespective of their ‘type’. An aircraft maintenance engineer (AME) and a cabin crew member have vastly differing job requirements and accordingly, to be successful, will need have very differing basic personas and skills.

The organisations who have participated in this supplement are professional, dedicated entities that offer a wide spread of education opportunities, not only for new incumbents into the aviation industry, but also for those wanting to ‘upskill’ to better and more career fulfilling positions.

Many young people (and a few older ones), dream about a career in aviation, and there has never been a better time than now, to take the action to turn those dreams into reality.

Young Girl in an Aviator Costume Playing With a Toy Aircraft

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