Against the background of the pilot and engineer shortages, the business aviation industry is looking at how to engage and train the next generation.

Focused around ‘Tomorrow’s People Today’ the British Business and General Aviation Association (BBGA) annual conference centred around the question of how to foster new talent into the industry.

“Wherever you look in our industry, whether that’s in flight operations, ground operations or airworthiness, right the way across aviation we are not encouraging enough people to join us,” commented Marc Bailey, BBGA CEO. “We are on the cusp and really need to do something about it.”

Moderating the panel on ‘Training new entrants’ Karen Spencer, chairman of the STEM APPG (All-Party Parliamentary Group on Diversity and Inclusion) opened by highlighting some of the issues the aviation industry faces as a career option.

“In the education world, aviation is hidden as a discipline and I think it is because it cuts across so many different sectors: STEM, logistics, business, and so Department of Education specialists can’t put you in a neat package or pathway,” Spencer explained. “There is work to be done on how you become visible as an industry to educationalists.”

The working group was established to educate Parliament and Government, carry out research and propose policy designed to further the aims of promoting high-tech science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) related aviation jobs throughout the UK.

“You are competing as an industry in a very competitive market already, and without clear pathways that are obvious to young people, they are not going to take the first step,” Spencer added.

Other issues affecting the future entrants to the industry include a skills shortage in disciplines required by the industry, as well as the cost of aviation courses, and a need for greater diversity.

Karen Spencer and Wendy Martin, head of Stansted Airport College backed by Harlow College, provided an overview of the establishment of the new college with insights from current trainees at Stansted College.

Roger Gault, board member – Pilot Apprenticeships, Aviation Industry Skills Board – discussed the need to engage the next generation “before they’ve made the decision about what subjects to study at school.”

“In my experience it’s from a character-forming experience, such as going into the cockpit,” he added and suggested the industry could co-ordinate much better on encouraging work experience and speaking to schools. He also stressed the importance of apprenticeships as an alternative and accessible route into the industry.

Spencer encouraged companies to invest in the existing systems, and to work out how to best assist in creating an “inspirational” aviation hub in their local economies to engage future generations.

Presenting one method of training new entrants, Andy O’Shea, head of training and recruitment at Ryanair, provided an insight into how the airline recruits pilots and flight instructors and how it has boosted numbers over the past four years.

Identifying key challenges of recruitment, he said: “We need to get the right people into the industry, not just the people who can afford to pay.”

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