Meeting future aviation needs in Zambia

Regular travelers to Zambia will always marvel about the magnificence of one of the Seven Wonders of the World: the Mighty Victoria Falls. It is one of the most breathtaking sights a traveler will encounter, whether travelling by road or air, the sight is amazing. Zambia is a landlocked country located in the southern part of Africa, with a population of close to 16 million people. Its capital, Lusaka, which is 350 kilometers north of the falls, is a city bustling with life and glamour. Though copper mining, tourism and power generation are the country’s main economic activities, Zambia is experiencing significant growth in agriculture.

Diversification into the agriculture sector has attracted a number of investors and global interest, which has contributed to an increase in air travel. Over 150,000 passengers fly to various Zambian destinations. This has brought so much goodwill that the government has embarked on the upgrading of the international airport terminals in three cities, Lusaka, Ndola and Livingstone (the tourist capital).

The improvements and changes that Zambia is making to establish itself as a global business hub that links southern Africa to the world, has attracted the aviation industry. Zambia’s Air Services Training Institute (ZASTI), which was established in 1969, was, in the mid eighties, designated as a civil aviation training centre for the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC). Our institute offers a range of aviation courses: aircraft maintenance engineering; aeronautical electronics engineering, flying, air traffic management, meteorology and fire fighting. We pride ourselves on serving the human resource needs of the aviation industry in the country, as well as part of Africa.

In our efforts to improve and meet the challenges of a rapidly growing aviation sector in the Zambian economy, we have to adapt our curriculum to the training needs of the industry. In doing so, important focus has shifted to introducing the aviation industry to the young generation. ZASTI regularly visits a number of schools to conduct career talks with students from early learning through all levels of education to inspire their interest in an aviation-related career. This is a deliberate effort to address the impending gap in the industry.

As part of the career presentations, instructors speak to students about the unlimited potential and opportunities they have to pursue careers in the aviation industry that will lead them to a bright future. We speak to them about the different career paths in the industry and how they can work towards their new interest. We share slide shows and provide tours of the institute’s training facilities, and give them the opportunity to ask questions and interact with the instructors.

Interest in aviation is built from the foundation of young and fresh minds. Students are invited to take a physical tour of the institute’s campus to familiarize themselves with the location of the school and our general outlook, as well as the staff who, in the near future, might help mentor them into successful aviation experts who will to contribute to the growth of the country’s economy.

Since ZASTI first launched career talks in the schools, over 488 children from approximately 20 different schools have visited the institute to learn about aviation and our operations. Many of them have been amazed. During these site visits the students visit various sections and departments where they are shown different training equipment and aircraft maintenance facilities. Often they get to test the aircraft control surfaces and cockpit instruments, communications and navigation equipment. Students are always free to ask questions and make contributions.

Students also visit the computer laboratory and school library where they are given the opportunity to showcase their various computer skills. An instructor is on-hand to explain how to use the equipment. Once the children conclude their tours they are free to take pictures and ask questions.

A geography teacher from Kaunda Square Primary school spoke of the experience, “the children are greatly inspired to see that average people come to train as pilots, engineers, meteorologists, air traffic controllers and firefighting officers. These visits leave such a lasting impression on them that it motivates them to work hard at school and pursue a career in the aviation industry. The children and schools benefit from these tours when children become motivated to do their best in school so that one day that can be like someone they met during the tours. Educational tours are one aspect of the early learning curriculum that should be encouraged by the schools and governments at large”.

 Group visit of students visit an aircraft and hangar

When one of the Grade eight students who visited ZASTI was asked about her experience, she spoke of how inspiring and motivating it is for a girl like her to see that it doesn’t matter your gender or who you are, that if you work hard enough, a childhood dream to fly a plane can come to reality “I can enroll at ZASTI and train to be a pilot. I have seen that there are so many other courses on offer at this institute that I can choose from. Even if I do not get to fly, I can still work at the airport”.

A boy from the same school promised to work extra hard in mathematics, science, English and geography so that he can get back to train as a fire fighter because that has always been his passion.

In 2017, aside from the school tours, ZASTI sent five instructions to five schools across the country. Students actually take notes as instructors share their experiences in the aviation industry.

To enrich our career school programme, we encourage public interaction by conducting open day programmes that are free for anyone wishing to attend. ZASTI actively  commemorates international celebrations like United Nations Youth Week, Youth Day, World Skills Day and International Civil Aviation Day. This gives us the opportunity to reach as many youth as possible with the opportunity to see what actually happens in the aviation industry. Zambia’s dream to tap into the potential of our young generation and interest them in the aviation industry, is no longer a far-fetched dream.

We will continue our efforts to contribute to the NGAP programme – with confidence Zambia will be able to launch a new national airline at a new airport, that will fly to new horizons.

The ICAO NGAP Global Summit is being convened by ICAO at its Montreal Headquarters from 27-28 November 2017, in cooperation with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). It will provide a unique opportunity to unite the aviation, education and labour sectors in order to develop strategies and actions to engage and retain the next generation of skilled aviation professionals. As part of the Summit, ICAO is also organizing a special Model ICAO Forum, speed networking sessions, and a career and networking exhibition for student participants. To register for the upcoming event, click here.