With industry predictions of a three-fold increase in demand for airline pilots in the Asia-Pacific region over the next two decades, opportunities are sky high for aspiring aviators.
With just 7,400 licensed airline pilots in Australia and predictions that a further 245,000 will be needed in the Asia-Pacific region by 2035, the opportunities are sky-high for aspiring pilots.
The supply of ex-military fliers is insufficient to meet such a huge spike in demand, so airlines are looking more widely for their next generation of pilots.
The looming shortage has seen them ramp up recruitment drives, in particular targeting women who currently make up just five percent of airline pilot workforce, which means that that the opportunities for Australian trainee aviators have never looked better.
International airlines such as Qantas, Virgin and several major Chinese airlines have been busy growing their staff, expanding and upgrading their fleet/aircraft, and increasing their global services.
According to Michael Heffey, who leads RMIT's specialist Flight Training unit, it is primarily universities that will be helping to fill the skills shortage.
"To help meet the demand for more pilots, RMIT will team up with one of Australia's major airlines and partner with other leading tertiary institutions to provide a talent pool of highly skilled graduates to meet the industry’s insatiable demand."
It’s this growing demand, that Heffey believes makes choosing to train with the right organisation crucial, which is why RMIT's internationally recognised Flight Training program is developed in consultation with industry.
As well as the quantity of pilots needed, it’s also the range of skills required that is increasing, particularly through the pace of technological change, forcing the biggest players in the industry to adapt their recruitment strategies.
Looking beyond just the technical skills of pilots, they are demanding staff with a skill-set that will contribute to a high-performing and sustainable business.
"Airlines require the next generation of pilots to have aptitude in a broad range of areas - beyond just the technical skills," Heffey said.
"This includes management and leadership, environmental knowledge, as well as communication and customer service skills."
In the past, when faced with a highly competitive job market, prospective pilots have relied on the total number of flying hours and the experience they have gained (i.e. single or multi-engine, instrument ratings and night flying) to stand out from the crowd.
While the path to becoming a licensed commercial pilot remains largely unchanged, the industry has seen a shift in the last decade towards the development of more integrated qualifications to meet the industry’s evolving needs.
Now, increasingly more airlines are listing an internationally recognised tertiary qualification as a requirement and it’s clear they’re seeking more agile staff.
"A tertiary-qualified graduate commercial pilot should deliver on the required critical thinking with learning agility, high information literacy and social intelligence," Heffey said.
"In an industry that is vulnerable to outside shocks, including increasing oil prices, security threats and sudden global economic changes, having a workforce that can adapt, contribute and lead is vital, he said.
RMIT offers both the Associate Degree in Aviation (Professional Pilots) and the Bachelor of Applied Science (Aviation) - Piloting Stream to give students the skills needed to apply for all the necessary licences and ratings – Private Pilot Licence (PPL), Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) and either Multi-Engine Command Instrument Rating or Flight Instructor Rating.
Story: Christina Jones