ICAO NGAP Summit addresses pressing shortages of skilled professionals for future air transport network


ICAO completed its inaugural Next General of Aviation Professionals (NGAP) Global Summit in Montréal this week, with over 500 education and air transport leaders working together to develop strategies to help aviation attract the best and brightest to operate and manage the future air transport network.

“My colleagues and I are very determined to attract, educate, train and retain the best and the brightest that our coming generations have to offer to manage the growth of the global air transport network,” stressed ICAO Secretary General Dr. Fang Liu in her opening remarks. “By 2036, some 620,000 pilots will be needed across our global network, and no less than 80% of these aviators will be new pilots not yet flying today. A similar story is playing out with respect to the future air traffic controllers, cabin crew, maintenance personnel and other skilled technicians needed.”

Dr. Liu further underscored that modern aircraft carry over half of the 1.4 billion tourists who travel across international borders each year, a contribution which establishes air transport as a veritable economic lifeline for many cities, States and regions.

“The availability of safe, secure and ICAO compliant aviation operations is being increasingly recognized today as a key catalyst for economic development,” she emphasized. “Well-planned aviation modernization and capacity increases will play a critical role in many States’ attainment of the UN Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”

The ICAO Secretary General also advocated for partnerships between ICAO, education and research institutions to study and develop solutions to global aviation challenges to support aviation planning and development.

Hailing from 85 countries, ICAO’s 2017 NGAP Global Summit participants represented a wide cross-section of concerned professionals and decision-makers representing industry, non-governmental organizations and academia. Also participating were officials from the International Labour Organization, the International Telecommunication Union, UNESCO, and UN Women.

Among the concrete solutions proposed during the event was the need to establish a network of educational institutions to support related youth attraction initiatives and related research and analysis on sector-wide human resources development metrics. Participants also underlined the need to enhance ICAO’s leading role with respect to educational and training programmes focused on the needs of next generation aviation professionals.

“We need to broaden our scope and begin instilling greater aviation awareness in high school and younger students, and especially in young girls,” Dr. Liu noted, with her gender-focused points being especially well supported through a UNESCO ‘Think Pink Hat’ session held on the sidelines of the Summit. These aim to instil STEM education and career excitement in young girls, and some 60 students from 19 schools took part in the edition carried out during the ICAO NGAP event, which was facilitated by Ms Rovani Sigamoney, Programme Specialist, Section for Innovation and Capacity Building in Science and Engineering, UNESCO.

In addition to the Summit and its core objectives of forging more productive and focused links between global aviation and the education and industry sectors, ICAO also conducted a Model ICAO Forum during the event. It aimed at raising university-level awareness on the role of the Organization on the international stage and the challenges associated with forging global consensus on air transport governance issues.

Student Model ICAO participants also benefitted from speed mentoring sessions with attending professionals, and career exhibits by a number of air transport and industry organizations.

The government of Qatar supported the Summit’s goals by formalizing a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for a new aviation scholarship, and in a similar vein Ukraine’s National Aviation University signed an MoU with ICAO for several new aviation internships.

A new strategic partnership with UNESCO also resulted from the Summit, enabling the two United Nations agencies to explore educational opportunities across a wider range of aviation professions, and to develop stronger links with the related United Nations SDGs.

In his closing Summit remarks, ICAO Air Navigation Bureau Director Mr. Steve Creamer thanked the many organizations who made the 2017 Summit possible, while recognizing the challenges to come.

“ICAO is under no illusions. We know that everything we need to pursue in this domain will require resources, expertise and enhanced communication and cooperation,” he remarked, “but we also know that we can assure a successful outcome by working together.”