Contributing towards the professional development of youth, South African Airways (SAA) runs a very successful youth traineeship called the ‘Cadet Pilot Programme’. This yearly scheme trains 40 young South Africans to become qualified commercial pilots.

The two very remarkable aspects of this programme are: the requirement to select individuals who fall under the category of previously disadvantaged individuals (as defined in the Employment Equity Act); as well as to hire with the intention of transforming the flight deck community and make it more representative of South Africa’s race and gender demographics. These two characteristics are aligned with the strategic objectives of skills development and training embedded in the airline’s new long-term strategy, Gaining Altitude.

In the space of 14 months, the 40 candidates are offered theoretical and practical training which enables them to get a ‘frozen’ ATPL (Airline Transport Pilot License). The airline believes that by providing in-house training, cadets will familiarise themselves with the environment, the SAA culture and philosophy early on in their development. Once enrolled in this programme, they serve as in-flight relief pilots or Second Officers on long-haul flights. Completion of this scheme means that, the future pilots will be of service not only to SAA, but also to other domestic airlines.

This training programme is a great example of how companies can focus on the country’s youth in order to empower them with the critical, yet scarce skills required in aviation while providing a genuine model for the airline industry in the development of future pilots.