Educating the next generation of aviation professionals

Every year 24 January is recognised as the International Day of Education, the day the United Nations recognises the necessary role education plays in peace and development. The 2020 theme ‘Learning for people, planet, prosperity and peace’, highlights the integrated nature of education and the importance of personal development and goals. You can follow the UNESCO celebrations that are taking place in Paris today by clicking here. Below we are sharing some of ICAO’s global efforts to support States and the aviation community in empowering the next generation.

More than half of the world’s 1.4 billion tourists use aviation to cross international borders every year. As these numbers double over the next 15 years, aviation will be competing with other industry sectors for up-and-coming talent. We need to ensure future air transport growth is managed and optimized by the best and brightest aviation professionals. The technologies, skills and approaches used to develop them will evolve significantly different from what they are today – what will the next generation need to be successful? How can we support States as they embark on their own NGAP strategies and implementation actions?

We need to work together to ensure there will be enough dedicated, qualified professionals to manage the anticipated growth of the global air transport network. Ensuring aviation operations are safe, secure and ICAO-compliant plays a key role in economic development and the ability of all States to attain the United Nations’ Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. ICAO launched the Next Generations of Aviation Professionals (NGAP) initiative to support work related to human resources planning data; to identify and support initiatives that reach out to the next generation, and to find ways to harmonize training regulations.  We asked ICAO experts to share insight in this area.

Stephen P. Creamer, Director, Air Navigation Bureau
Where do we stand today in regards to attracting, educating and retaining young aviation professionals?

Stephen Creamer– I have no doubt that in the next 20 years, the technology, skills, and approaches that we see in the aviation sector will be significantly different than they are today. The workforce driving the sector will equally evolve within this period, and so should the strategies to attract, educate, and retain them. Since 2009, ICAO, under its Next Generation of Aviation Professionals (NGAP) initiative, has been working with Member States, international and regional organizations, academia and industry to address the forecasted shortage of aviation professionals and ensure there is a sufficient skilled workforce to handle future sectoral demand. As part of this, ICAO is also ramping up its outreach to schools, and universities – all of which remain key audiences for generating and sustaining interest in the sector.

How are you preparing the industry for the challenges of attracting young aviation professionals?

Stephen Creamer– Through the NGAP initiative and several other collaborative engagements, we are improving and widening recognition for the young generation’s critical role in the sustainable growth of our industry. These engagements are beginning to create a shared understanding of the situation across international and regional organizations, industry, and the education sector. Everyone must work together to ensure the safe and efficient operation of the air transportation system. In doing so, we are also effectively demonstrating an awareness of how critical the involvement of the younger generation is to the future of an industry that contributes to the achievement of ICAO’s aspirational goals.

Consequently, a number of key stakeholders are uniting in a variety of strategies targeted at directly engaging young people in order to guarantee the future of a sector which transported 4.3 billion passengers in 2018 alone.

Michiel Vreedenburgh, Programme Coordinator of the ICAO COSCAP South East Asia Programme
What are some of the achievements of the NGAP Programme?

Michiel Vreedenburgh– Recognizing the importance of engaging the next generation in order to ensure a sustainable aviation system, the NGAP initiative was elevated to an ICAO Programme in 2015. ICAO leadership of this important programme was recognized by ICAO Member States with the adoption of an Assembly Resolution in 2016, A39-29: Next Generation of Aviation of Professionals, and with the incorporation of NGAP in the ICAO Global Aviation Safety and Global Air Navigation Plans, as well as the ICAO Business Plan.

ICAO has expanded the NGAP Programme to cross all the Strategic Objectives of ICAO, and the Regional Offices are becoming actively involved in promotion and outreach.

NGAP has held five Global Symposia (March 2010, December 2014 and November 2017, August 2018) and an Innovation Fair in September 2019 and many NGAP Regional Symposia. We developed a 20-year forecast to assist States in quantifying human resources requirements (Doc 9956) and an Internship Toolkit; developed a Fundamentals of the Air Transport System course and an Aviation Training and Education Directory. We collaborated with the International Pilot Training Association (IPTA) to create outreach videos, gather data on pathways, barriers, and best outreach practices for pilot careers; and issued regular NGAP Outreach publications to support and promote NGAP. Similarly, there have been excellent national and regional examples of NGAP at work, such as in Sri Lanka, Singapore and with the Young African Aviation Professionals Association, in Cameroon.

ICAO is actively promoting outreach activities to engage the next generation. ICAO provided support to Shaesta Waiz, Afghanistan’s fist female civilian pilot, as she undertook a solo round-the-world flight to raise awareness for greater global access to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education for women and youth. We continue to provide support and promote global outreach programmes, promote STEM education, and raise awareness of NGAP issues at international and regional events.

ICAO is also reaching out to other UN agencies to coordinate and collaborate on gender issues and the promotion of STEM education to youth, and in particular, young girls. By working with our UN counterparts, we can capitalize on the strengths of each other’s initiatives to jointly promote our common goals: empowering girls and women and ensuring adequate education for all youth. For us, these goals are paramount to creating the necessary foundation for our future workforce.

Dawn Flanagan, Implementation Support Officer, Air Navigation Bureau
What are the interventions that can be taken by stakeholders, including ICAO, to inspire, engage and empower girls and women in pursuing their dreams (careers?) in aviation?

Dawn Flanagan– ICAO’s commitment to gender equality is emphasized by the adoption of Assembly Resolution A39-30: ICAO Gender Equality Programme promoting the participation of women in the global aviation sector, which is also in support of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Sustained and concerted action is required at all levels of industry to improve capacity for data collection on genders in aviation, the findings of which must be turned into short, accessible briefings targeting different audiences, including policy-makers, industry, and academia. The problem of a shortage of competent personnel must be addressed in the context of women and girls’ empowerment. Aviation, in return, stands to benefit from their contributions to the sector, since they offer a diversity of viewpoints, capabilities and perspectives that have often been lacking.

ICAO, together with the International Aviation Women’s Association (IAWA), launched an Aviation Scholarship for professional women in the sector, with the objective of enhancing the development of women in aviation. Though a great initiative, the effort to further progress gender equality and female representation should aim to encourage young female professionals to apply for internships, technical and managerial positions within ICAO, and at as many other related organizations as possible. Again, interest in the sector can be generated through mentoring opportunities that are dedicated to girls in elementary and high schools. As the UN Secretary-General stated on International Women’s Day earlier this year: “Now we must move from ambition to action.”

Catalin Radu, Deputy Director, Aviation Safety, Air Navigation Bureau
What do you envision for the way forward, and how do you think NGAP as a programme within ICAO could be improved to better reflect the needs and concerns of States and the aviation industry in general?

Catalin Radu– We must encourage the international civil aviation community to continuously support the ICAO NGAP Programme as a forum that facilitates the exchange of best practices and information about initiatives that are being implemented by industry, governments and academia. Coordination and collaboration at a global level is necessary to promote this work. This includes continued support by our voluntary workforce, as well as with funding from stakeholders to support various initiatives.

As a key driver of this process, ICAO is determined to continue its work with stakeholders to intensify awareness of the impending shortages of personnel, and to promote cooperation and coordination within the global aviation community to attract, educate and retain the next generation of aviation professionals.

ICAO, in cooperation with partners and stakeholders, will develop guidance and tools that can help States devise a holistic approach towards addressing the problem of the shortage of competent personnel. This guidance, coupled with an updated Forecast on Aviation Professionals which will be published in 2018, will assist States to develop their national NGAP Strategy and Action Plan.

It is also critical to reach out to academia and youth to promote aviation as a profession and to make education more accessible to students. The continued promotion of STEM education is critical to ensuring the necessary foundation for students to be successful in aviation.

Aviation’s strength and success as an industry is rooted in its skilled workforce. If we are to protect what we have achieved, we need to work together and continue to build momentum into the future.


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