High-flying: jobs and the air transport industry

The air transport industry is currently a major contributor to global GDP and, by 2032, Oxford Economics estimates that the air transport industry’s contribution to global GDP will grow to $5.8 trillion. Only in 2012, the industry contributed $2.4 trillion to global GDP. This means that if aviation were a country it would be comparable to Switzerland, creating 3.4% of global GDP.

Some of the key findings of the Aviation: Benefits Beyond Borders report released at the Summit have to do with employment around the world. The report was presented by ATAG executive director Michael Gill in this presentation:

Naturally, this revenue is directly linked to the creation of employment: air transport provides 8.7 million jobs, the civil aerospace sector provides 1.2 million and airports provide a further 4.6 million jobs on-site. But what exactly is the range of jobs provided by the aviation industry? What is out there beyond the technicians and engineers that work on aircraft and engines, the air traffic controllers, the ground handlers, the customer service personnel and caterers, to name but a few?

Being the innovative and dynamic industry it is, air transport requires a highly-skilled workforce. Compared to the economy as a whole, the value-added per employee in the air transport sector generates 3.6 times as much value-added per employee. The industry also passes this value on to the next generation, benefiting communities around them with new skills and work experience. In addition to providing jobs and better skills, air transport benefits from research and development even more significantly than from manufacturing. Research shows that for every $100 million spent on R&D, an additional $70 million is generated in the economy year after year.

So how is the industry dealing with transfer skills? British Airways, for example, recruits 120-200 apprentices every year in fields such as engineering, IT, operations and project management amongst other areas. Moreover, last year, Embraer’s Specialist Education and Research Institute opened a new unit of the Embraer High School with a $2.5 million investment from Embraer. This unit is complementary to the São José dos Campos unit which has been helping more than 2000 students graduate since 2002. Likewise, both Boeing and Airbus operate robust and well-established apprenticeship and intern programmes.

In terms of the employment environment, air transport is taking several steps towards modernising and diversifying. Lufthansa recently announced that it had redesigned two departments in the Lufthansa Aviation Centre in Frankfurt to adopt a more flexible work model. The trial seeks to adopt a ‘workspace of the future’, allowing employees to get a better balance between home and work. Similarly, Aircraft manufacturer Airbus introduced the GEDC Airbus Diversity Award in 2013 to recognise individuals who bring more diversity into the engineering field. In addition, to strengthen and promote diversity in its workforce, Boeing has established seven affinity groups based on shared aspects such as gender, race, or cultural identity to further personal and professional development as well as facilitating networking within the company.

These employment strategies benefit more than hotels, airlines, airport handlers and researchers, as the air transport industry builds the majority of its infrastructure generating jobs in construction, engineering, architecture and more. Overall, these initiatives make air transport a valuable part of the global economy, both as a contributor and as an employer.