Chris Long reports on a new apprenticeship scheme recently launched in the UK.

One of the major challenges for many countries is the funding of the expensive training for aviation professionals, in particular for those wishing to start pilot training. The high cost has put it out of the reach of a very large proportion of the population, and this at a time when the industry is struggling to attract enough new entrants of the right quality. Many western countries lag those of the Gulf and Asian regions in this respect, so it is pleasing to see an initiative to remedy this now in the UK.

Higher Apprenticeship in Professional Aviation Pilot Practice (HAPAPP) The catchy title of this scheme clearly demonstrates its governmental origins. For many years there has been active debate within the UK to formally identify the aviation industry as being similar to other professions, and therefore eligible to be considered for some form of government help in funding training.

Until this step could be made, those entering the training for professional pilots' licences could not access the same sort of loans/grants which are available to other professions. So, the challenge was to devise a course of education which would yield a qualification which embraced both a degree and a professional pilot licence. Elsewhere, for instance in the USA, that path has frequently been through a degree in aeronautical engineering, part of which includes a professional pilot licence.

A signification attribute of this new UK pattern is that there is no distraction on an ancillary discipline – the course is designed to recognise and facilitate a depth of study focussed on the competencies of the new job. Middlesex University is the overreaching authority, in that, once the course is completed, it awards a degree, a BSc Honours Professional Aviation Pilot Practice. This meets the UK Government Level 6 qualification for work.

Framework The course content will normally include more than simply the CPL/IR/Frozen ATPL or MPL. The concept is based on creating a framework which can be adapted to a number of scenarios to thoroughly prepare a new entrant for the role as a revenue-earning pilot in the right hand seat of a commercial aircraft with no further training required. Not only will it typically include a type rating, but, for instance, where an airline has been involved in the training in the pursuit of a MPL, the course can also include such other disciplines as exposure to, and training in, airline culture, Safety Management Systems (SMS) or management background studies. Similarly it has been created to enable several different forms of entry with a variety of subsequent pathways – these can vary from someone embarked on an integral training package with an airline, to a student who has already made progress in licence acquisition, to a self-funded student who is looking for an interest-free loan through the normal government-approved student loan process. Each case will have to be approved through the Middlesex University/Aviation Skills Partnership team, and, of course, the non-licence studies can be completed even after entry into service.

Development The really encouraging element in this whole process is that after years of separate discussion and concern, all the major players were drawn into the debate to work together to find a flexible and practical solution. Back in 2007, Simon Witt, now CEO of Aviation Skills Partnership, who, although not himself a pilot but having worked at British Airways and Flybe, started consulting with other groups to try to address the funding and recognition problem. Eventually a comprehensive group of players was pulled together. This included the regulator (in this case the UK CAA), the educational establishments, Middlesex University, the end-users – most UK airlines, ATOs and some neutral sources of expertise, including the Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS), the London-based Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators (GAPAN) and the British Business and General Aviation Association (BBGA).

The UK government was involved through the National Apprenticeship Service and it was helpful that its own Higher Apprenticeship Scheme was rolled out in March 2012, which had provision under which bids could be made to qualify specific professional training schemes. The HAPAPP was approved following this process, and the first students start their training in September 2013. Promoting awareness of this option will be carried out through the normal schools career advice, as well as via other aviation channels such as aviation cadet organisations, RAeS, GAPAN, the aviation skills network and others.

In these cash-strapped times it is encouraging to see a concerted and effective effort to bring together all the interested parties to set up a structure which will support training of the new generation of aviation professional. The principle which has now been established will gradually roll out internationally via ICAO/IATA initiatives as well as to support training in other areas of the aviation industry. Considerable progress has been made in adapting this to cabin crew training, and discussions are underway to bring this system to entrants into Air Traffic Control. All in all an optimistic start to a framework which could, and perhaps should be the start point for future aviation professionals in the UK.