Published on July 5th, 2018 | by FII Reader


Facilitating Educational Opportunities for Pilots

Pictured: Kyle Johnston, CTKI AFTA, Dr. Pio Fenton CIT, Mark Casey HoT AFTA.

The lifestyle and, indeed workstyle, of pilots has long proved an impediment to the attainment of third level qualifications while maintaining active and full participation in the workforce. And by third level qualifications, we don’t mean spanish clep test practice, but a much more elaborate course that’d last years. Equally, the significant investment in pilot training has been poorly reflected in mechanisms of advanced entry to college and university programmes. This poses a quandary for those of us in Higher Education which requires quick resolution for this critical element of the airline industry.

Most university and college systems in the western world place emphasis on increasing access to third level qualifications for poorly represented groups. Rightly, much attention has been paid to ensure avenues exist for low-income individuals, people from non-traditional backgrounds, that minorities are represented in intakes and that those with the ability but not the means are given at least some opportunities. In the Irish Higher Education system, for example, state funding is dependent on various metrics are used to determine how well internal college management reflects the national priorities around diversity and ease of access. Within this, there is an increasing metrification also of the value of broader uptake of flexible learning opportunities.  However, this is often pointed at mass-market popular programmes that are of interest to a wider spectrum of individuals. Typical of this genre are, for example, part-time MBAs, online programmes in digital marketing, intensive short programmes delivered in house and other similar vehicles. A common thread is perhaps replicability and/or generality. For HEIs, this means that the prospects of viability are large as there is a wide market for the programmes.

The challenges posed when reflecting on the careers of pilots is harder to address however. It is perhaps because of this that so little has been done by HEIs for those that are pilots. Existing efforts are focused on fertilising the pilot career trajectory with light doses of management training and aviation insight with a view to developing conduits for cabin-exit rather than as something that genuinely offers something of transferable value to the individual pilot. This is justifiable – on paper the career trajectory is well defined and attractive. This remains the case for the majority of pilots. There is scope however to offer a genuine educational provision that broadens the perspective of the pilot beyond the aviation sector while also recognising the advanced ability of pilots. Commitment of all involved however is a necessary angle in this.

Cork Institute of Technology has developed a programme which, by design, reflects the training foundations and career trajectories of pilots in a more holistic way. Through a process called Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) the programme recognises the extensive learning involved in becoming a pilot at commercial level.  The underpinning technical expertise, the competences developed and tested along the way, and the attendant awareness of the industry are critical pieces of learning comparable to that developed in many degrees. The RPL process accepts the value of this learning and through a rigorous and quality-assured means equates this to years 1 and 2 of a 4 year Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in International Business with Aviation Studies. Years 3 and 4 is then a specially designed online programme that delivers key content, skills and knowledge with a broadened perspective on International Business. The novel structure combines pedagogy with technology. Many online programmes simply replicate thoughtlessly the classroom experience online. This particular programme is designed with an online-first mentality that ensures a better learning experience.  The simple intent overall is to ensure better opportunities for pilots with a more full contribution to the organisation possible in parallel to this – in effect allowing for the development of captains of business beyond the cockpit while adding more value within it.  The programme was developed in conjunction with the Atlantic Flight Training Academy in Cork and with input from some of the major airlines operating in Ireland.

Solutions like this are possible through HEIs but we need to start viewing the career of a pilot through the lens of those outside of education.  The essence of education is about open-mindedness – this is the only thing that has ever brought about change and the only thing that ever will. Education providers need to look at this critical career in a more open-minded way and determine what it can do to enhance opportunities.  More details can be found at www.cit.ie/businesswithaviation

Staff and Students from AFTA at the launch of the new CIT Course.

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