UK government to back pilot apprenticeships

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The UK aviation industry will benefit from a share of a £25 million ($39.3 million) government fund designed to encourage the uptake of "higher apprenticeships", which will open up professional training, including that for pilots, to those who would normally not be able to afford it.

The scheme also extends to other professions like law, specialist engineering and accountancy, all areas in which the government predicts there will be a shortage of qualified people.

The Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) estimates that between now and 2030 European airlines will need to recruit 92,500 new pilots, and the UK will need to train 96,300 new engineers over the next four years just to replace those who are due to retire.

Higher apprenticeships, says BIS, enable people to pursue degree level study while being paid, "helping to widen participation".

The training organisation City & Guilds has been working with BIS to develop a "Higher Apprenticeship Pathway for commercial airline pilots" and, starting in September, £217,800 of funding has been earmarked "to help participating employers". This includes airlines Jet2, British Airways, Monarch and Flybe, along with the Civil Aviation Authority and ground handling firm Servisair.

The figure for the aviation sector, announced under the second round of the scheme, is far lower than the funding allocated to any of the other sectors, with engineering taking the lion's share, but trainees for the financial and hospitality sectors getting three to four times the backing that flying training will receive.

Max Wright, head of training at Flybe, which has been running its own unsupported system of subsidised pilot training, as well as apprenticeships for engineers and cabin crew, says the carrier will be talking to City & Guilds next month about participating in the scheme.

Business Secretary Vince Cable says: "Through the Higher Apprenticeship Fund we can target sectors where skills shortages are threatening to choke off growth. They also help us break down the doors of professions that are not representative of the society in which we live."

Skills Minister John Hayes adds: "By radically increasing the number of degree level apprenticeships we are putting practical learning on a level footing with academic study."

Separately BIS has unveiled a £40 million investment, matched by a further £40 million from industrial partners including Rolls-Royce, in advanced manufacturing research and capital equipment "to keep the UK at the forefront of advances in aerospace and advanced manufacturing".