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Why apprenticeships are vital to the recovery in aviation

There’s no avoiding the fact that the Covid pandemic has plunged the global aviation industry into an unprecedented crisis. And while it will eventually recover, air travel in the post-pandemic future is very unlikely to look the same as it did in the past. Many of our long-held approaches to the way air operates will need to change, and as that starts to happen, apprenticeships will play a vital part in the sector’s rebuild strategy.

This year’s 14th National Apprenticeship Week, which takes place (largely virtually) from 8 to 14 February, provides a timely reminder of the way that employers and providers have stepped up to combat the challenges of these unprecedented times. With almost 2,000 apprentices across the aviation sector, National Apprenticeship Week is also an opportunity for employers and training providers to share how they train and retain apprentices and how they’re achieving a return on their apprenticeship investments. And it’s also a springboard to help us look ahead at how apprenticeships can futureproof the workforce and boost careers as well as helping individuals to thrive by gaining valuable workplace skills and knowledge.

“Apprentices are the future and we need them to take our business with them,” said Rebecca Wakelin, TUI’s Early Talent & Apprenticeship Manager. “The pandemic has actually accelerated the need to invest in apprenticeships as we enter a new, remote and digital working landscape,” she added. “Apprenticeship are in our DNA - we have been investing in them for many years and have success stories all over the business. Many of our managers and directors started out as apprentices themselves.”

Apprenticeships are all about investment. However retaining the apprentice beyond the completion of their programme is part of a wider challenge. According to Peter Gardner, Apprenticeship & Talent Development Manager UK&I from Menzies Aviation “The overall reward package for apprentices is part of the puzzle but providing clear progression routes and defined career paths all help apprentices stay with the organisation. The other element that we don’t forget is the apprenticeship progression path itself. We consider the next meaningful step for each individual apprentice.”

Through the Aviation Industry Skills Board, employers have worked hard over recent years to develop the sector’s apprenticeship standards and ensure they are fit for purpose. This employer-led approach has given the sector confidence in the content and delivery of apprenticeships and provided a valuable talent pipeline.

“We use apprenticeships to help build and develop the skills of employees, so that in turn they support the growth and priorities of the business.” said Charlotte Booton, easyJet’s Apprenticeship and Early Careers Manager. “By allowing our employees to learn whilst they work it helps bring new ideas and diversity of thought to the table at a faster pace. Apprenticeships can support key areas where we see innovation happening in the future and in developing key skills such as leadership.”

Moving forward, the employer-led approach will prove vital in ensuring that industry can define effective post-pandemic progression routes and align workplace skills and vocational education activities. Three new apprenticeship standards in aviation have recently been approved: customer service operative, ground handler, and aviation movement. Incorporating the knowledge, skills and behaviours employers have defined as essential for the industry, these standards will help to create further career pathways in years to come.

People 1st International has also been helping to address the future talent pipeline and improve the quality of technical education by leading an industry response back to the Department for Education on the current consultations into post-16 level 2 & 3 qualifications. This represents a critical opportunity to correct the pathways into the aviation industry and is needed now more than ever.

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