The Next Generation of Aviation Professionals


In 2016 the total number of passengers carried on scheduled air services reached 3.7 billion, which was a 6 per cent increase over 2015. While the numbers are positive, this growth comes with a challenge – making sure there are enough trained pilots, air traffic controllers, engineers and aircraft maintenance specialists to sustain industry demands.

In this decade the industry will recruit 480,000 new technicians to maintain aircraft and over 350,000 pilots to fly them. According to Boeing’s Long Term Market Current Market Forecast 2015-2043, over one million new pilots and technicians will be needed by 2034.

We have to take steps to ensure there are enough qualified and competent aviation professionals who can operate, manage and maintain the future international air transport system. This is critical, given that a large contingent of the current generation of aviation professionals will soon retire, access to affordable training and education is increasingly problematic, and aviation competes with other industry sectors for highly-skilled professionals. The lack of harmonized competencies in some aviation disciplines and a lack of awareness by the “next generation” of the types of aviation jobs available, further compounds the problem.

The shortage of aviation professionals can be attributed to some of these factors:

  • retirements of the current generation of aviation professionals;
  • aviation professions are not attractive enough to potential candidates;
  • competition with other industry sectors for skilled employees;
  • training capacity insufficient to meet demand;
  • learning methodologies not responsive to new evolving learning style; accessibility to affordable training;
  • lack of harmonization of competencies in some aviation disciplines; and
  • little awareness by the “next generation” of types of aviation professions available.

In 2009, under the Next Generation of Aviation Professionals (NGAP) initiative, ICAO began working with several States and industry partners to address the forecast shortage of aviation professionals. NGAP was launched to create a platform where stakeholders could work together to bring greater awareness of the impending shortages of personnel, to forecast global and regional personnel needs, and to assist the aviation community as a whole, in attracting, educating and retaining the next generation of aviation professionals.

ICAO confirmed the critical need for this work when it elevated the NGAP initiative as an ICAO priority Programme and incorporated it in revised Global Plans, both for safety and air navigation, as well as the new ICAO Business Plan.

NGAP’s Vision is to ensure the world’s aviation community has sufficient, competent human resources to support a safe, secure and sustainable air transportation system. Our Mission is to develop strategies and the best practices, tools, standards and guidelines needed to facilitate information sharing activities that assist the global aviation community in attracting, educating, and retaining the next generation of aviation professionals.

For the NGAP Programme to be successful in achieving these goals, we need to work closely with States, international organizations, industry and academia to continue raising awareness on the importance of effective human resources planning and development and gender equality, and we need to ensure a sufficient numbers of skilled aviation professionals will be available in the future to meet the industry’s projected needs.

ICAO will continue to be involved in events that support the next generation of aviation professionals and we are also pleased to be supporting the Dreams Soar Initiative, which is helping to promote both women and youth in aviation.

Young Captain Shaesta Waiz, the first civilian female pilot from Afghanistan, is seeking to empower women around the globe in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields, as she makes her historic solo flight around the world in 2017. Along the route, Capt. Waiz will team with inspiring women, and together they will host outreach events focused on careers in STEM fields to encourage women worldwide to believe in themselves and to set important life-changing goals.

Initiatives like these are invaluable in attracting the next generation of aviation professionals. As we continue to work with our partners, our goal is to expand participation and involvement in projects, activities and events to engage and excite the next generation and ensure they benefit from the opportunities that will exist for them.

Michiel Vreedenburgh is the Chief of Aviation Safety Implementation Planning and Support in the Air Navigation Bureau at ICAO Headquarters in Montreal, and has nearly 30 years of international professional experience in aviation.