The final panel session at the Aviation Africa event looked at the shortage of human capital in the region and the need to train young people to make sure the industry thrives.
Moderated by African Aerospace editor Ian Sheppard, the panel comprised Dr Othman Al Khoori, chief human resources officer, Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC)
; Amer Fakhoury, VP, Ayla Aviation Academy, Jordan;
Hussein Massoud, president ALSAFWA; Patrick Nkulikiyimfura, managing director, Akagera Aviation, Rwanda; and Abdulai Alhassan, director general, Ghana Civil Aviation Authority.
Dr Othman Al Khoori (pictured) gave a presentation outlining the problems relating to human resources.
The audience learned that there will be a huge demand for pilots and engineers over the next 10 years to meet the growth projections.
He said 30% of the global aviation workforce is due to retire in 2013.
“We are spending billions of dollars on aircraft and infrastructure, but are we spending enough on training?” he said. “We talk about shortages, but at the same time we sometimes cut the means of providing training.
“At the same time we need to move from reactive to strategic proactive planning. We have to change to strategic HR, making sure we know what it means to get the right people in the right roles – we need to be more
Amer Fakhoury said that pilot and instructor shortages were starting to become a problem.
Hussein Massoud agreed and said that the gap between the requirement for the future and what is available is growing. “We need to plan for the next 20 years or so if we are to fill that gap,” he said.
Patrick Nkulikiyimfura said that he had been reading Boeing's recent report on pilot needs and we will need 14,500 new pilots over the next 20 years.
“How do we provide the training to do that?” he asked. “In Africa we need 1,200 new aviation professionals every year. In Rwanda we had genocide, so we have had to import more professionals to fill that skills gap. Now the government is trying to persuade more people to enter the aviation industry.”
Abdulai Alhassan said that in Ghana it tries to cast its net as widely as possible when it comes to recruitment. “But how do you retain people?” he said.
He added you may even need to look at other aspects of their package, such as providing housing, if you wish to retain staff.
Amer Fakhourysaid we have a lot of pilots moving around the Gulf region, but retention is not always about money.
“They may come back to Jordan at some stage in their career, but that doesn't help with your long-term planning,” Fakhoury said.
Another question arose asking if military and commercial training could be combined. Amer Fakhourysaid that for pilot training the two are actually very different and it wouldn’t be appropriate. But the panel agreed that training for other aviation roles could benefit from being transferred.
Hussein Massoud felt that with appropriate retraining there could be a cross-over from military to civilian roles. “In Egypt 90% of helicopter pilots working for petroleum companies are from the military,” he said.
All agreed that more needs to be done to get youngsters enthused about aviation.
Othman Al Khoori concluded the session by saying you have to grab a youngster's attention when they are young. “You have to get them interested in aviation at kindergarten. By the time they are at university it is too late,” he said.