Diversity and inclusivity are key to aviation’s sustainability: this initiative is setting a global example


The global unemployment rate stood at 5.7 per cent in 2016, with women more likely to be unemployed than men across all age groups. Youth are almost three times as much as adults to be unemployed, making them the most vulnerable group when it comes to human resources. 76 percent of countries with data or more show that more than 1 in 10 youth are neither in the educational system nor working, with young women representing the exposed majority.

Against this backdrop, ICAO is forecasting that air traffic volumes will double within fifteen years, meaning that it is crucial to ensure the international civil aviation network has access to sufficient qualified and competent young professionals. Eliminating barriers related to gender, ethnicity, and poverty – to name a few – is therefore not only a moral imperative, but an operational one too.

The opportunities here are major, for both the personal development of these young people and for sustainable development of the societies they live in. Already, the aviation sector supports 63.5 million jobs globally, fully one third of world trade by value, and contributes more than 2.7 trillion dollars annually to global GDP. It also carries over half of the 1.4 billion tourists who travel across international borders each year, a contribution which establishes air transport as a significant economic lifeline for many cities, states and regions.

Airplane in airport at sunset. One worker leaving the airplane on empty cargo vehicle.

The impact of the industry’s growth on States’ socio-economic development and the attainment of the UN Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be impossible to dismiss, making it an indisputable opportunity for States to invest in well-planned capacity building initiatives targeting youth, community outreach and gender-free opportunities.

Here, Canada-based Stratos Aviation Association is undertaking an exemplary initiative through its establishment of the Stratos Aerospace Lab (S.A.L). This Lab encourages and supports youth skill development and creativity and is already launching its first social entrepreneurial product: “Ventus”, designed and engineered by a Syrian Armenian Refugee student, Shoushi Bakarian. Ventus is a tube which fits into small aircrafts’ ventilation systems. It provides a 5V USB current to charge devices, including navigation aids, and cools the cabin by 3-5 degrees Celsius.

It is worthwhile to highlight that Bakarian, the skilled young woman behind the Stratos Aerospace Lab initiative was granted permanent residency in Canada only in 2016, and had joined Concordia University’s  aerospace engineering  program after surviving her two last years of high school in the midst of adversities and war-broken hometown Aleppo. An example like Shoushi Bakarian, and the support she has received from Stratos, offers inspiration to youth and women around the world.

The new lab will allow anyone with a vision and creativity to use its resources free of charge, in an environment that promotes aerospace engineering and technology development, a platform where entrepreneurial skills development can flourish. Any returns profited from the products created in the lab will be re-invested into education grants for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) related studies and pilot training, feeding the development cycle.

This initiative is aligned with many aspects of the strategy that ICAO is implementing at the global level to address the human resource challenges our network faces. ICAO’s Next Generation of Aviation Professionals programme (NGAP) encourages the implementation of strategies and initiatives designed to encourage interest in studies in STEM among youth and women and to ensure that everyone who has ability to pursue a career in aviation can do so. This is about identifying and addressing the barriers that individuals can face, given their circumstances, and providing the means for these barriers to be eliminated or overcome.

Thanks to local initiatives, such as the Stratos lab, the global momentum is building rapidly towards the achievement of these objectives and a fully inclusive international air transport system. If you wish to support Stratos Aerospace Lab, you can do so by checking their first social entrepreneurial aviation product “Ventus” and contributing to its fund.