Skip to content

Guest column by Simon Witts, Aviation Skills Partnership

Picture of Simon Witts

Simon Witts

Aviation Skills Partnership / Founder & Chief Executive


The shortfall in qualified aircraft maintenance engineers has been well documented and is not disputed. The 2015 Boeing Pilot and Technical Outlook forecasts that the global aviation industry will need more than 609,000 engineers over the next two decades. There is an increasing need to find better ways to attract people into the aviation industry, and to create a sustainable supply of aircraft maintenance engineers with the right skills.

The global aviation industry will need more than 609,000 engineers over the next two decades.

Working with training organisations, employers and the education sector, the Aviation Skills Partnership (ASP) is creating new, innovative training programmes that integrate practical skills and academic qualifications. These form part of new career pathways into jobs in all areas of aviation, which identify and provide the right skills from primary education age all the way through to the top of the industry. The introduction of these pathways is one of the ways in which ASP is delivering on its Aviation Skills Manifesto, recently launched at the House of Commons.

ASP works with schools and colleges to help ensure the courses they offer provide students with the knowledge and skills for their future roles. Where they don’t exist, ASP develops aviation skills solutions that meet industry’s needs. Examples of its successes in this area are the Higher Apprenticeship, BSc (Hons) degree programmes for professional pilots and aircraft maintenance engineers. The pilot programme has already enrolled over 100 pilot trainees, with the first graduates now flying as First Officers with major UK airlines.

The engineering degree has been embraced by the University of East Anglia and the University of South Wales with the first courses starting in September. The degrees are wholly practice-based: attendance at the awarding universities is not required. The trainee engineers complete all of their studies and practical work at their approved training organisations.

In the case of the University of East Anglia, the engineering programme will be delivered in collaboration with KLM-UK Engineering and City College Norwich at a purpose built International Aviation Academy TM on Norwich Airport. The academy will contain a commercial airliner, provided by KLM-UK, and a commercial helicopter, both maintained in operational condition. This innovative environment, known as an “Emulation Zone” TM, will enable trainee engineers to gain practical experience that will count towards the experience required for their licences.

This has proven to be a highly desirable model, with further aviation academy “hubs” being introduced at strategic locations across the UK.

The key to this success is ASP’s insistence that pathways and programmes fully comply with the requirements of industry, educational bodies, and regulators. Each of ASP’s partners has been involved in development of the programmes throughout to ensure that they remain relevant and provide value to employers.

All of this is good news for youngsters aspiring to work in aviation, and the employers who have been struggling to recruit enough people with the right skills to meet their business needs to secure their future.



Share this article