Promoting Aeronautic Careers

15th December 2015

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Location / Country / Region

Portugal / EU (various countries)

Time frame

These initiatives include 3 different funded projects: Fly Higher started in 2012, while AIRVET and IN2SAI started in October 2013. All projects had a duration of 24 months

Short description

The aeronautic industry is a key driver of European cohesion and competitiveness, requiring a highly educated and innovative work force, as well as quantitative and qualitative employment preparation and forecast. With an ageing population and also declining of younger age groups, shortage of qualified personnel may affect the aeronautic sector in the future, unless there is a joint effort to attract young Europeans to future careers in the field of Aeronautics.

The initiatives presented here, promoted in Portugal and at European level, aim to attract, motivate and encourage young Europeans to embrace future careers in the field of Aeronautics by raising awareness about future career paths in aeronautics and by fostering a close, open, informal dialogue and sustained interactions and networking activities between the aeronautics research community, industry and the school and higher education community. The initiatives seek to empower the roles of these stakeholders to bring awareness to careers in Aeronautics and motivate young Europeans to embrace future paths in this field.

Actors Involved

Studies reveal that youth occupational choices are influenced by several factors, including the life context, personal aptitudes, and educational achievements. Children and young adults, through interaction with the context of family, school, and community, learn about and explore careers that ultimately lead to career choice.

Target audiences

The activities of these projects intend to reach the following main target groups: children and youth; teachers, professors, trainers and educators; counsellors and Career Advisors (CA), industry and business community and aeronautic key stakeholders. For each group, differentiated activities were prepared, adapted to their characteristics, needs and role.

Relevant links, websites, etc.

Links with the European Framework

With the activities performed, which focus on raising the interest of young Europeans in careers and studies (including STEM) in the field of aeronautics, we are contributing  to reverse the trend of ageing of professionals in this field and also to motivate students (in particular female students) to learn more and acquire the relevant skills and knowledge to be excellent future aeronautic researcher or/and industry professionals (school education, VET and Higher education).

In the projects definition and implementation a particular attention was given to gender issues and to engage also female students in this field. The IN2SAI project, in particularly, intends to increase the participation of female students in higher education studies in scientific fields (especially those relevant for aeronautics) and to contribute to their integration into the Aeronautic Industry.

Links with national / regional priorities

The above mentioned problems that affect aeronautic field have a European dimension and therefore these also request a European cooperation approach in order to tackle them. The shortage of qualified personnel will affect this sector in the future can only be reversed unless there is a joint European effort to attract, educate/train and motivate young Europeans to embrace future education and careers in the field of Aeronautics.

These initiatives (3 projects) worked and are working as true networks allowing the increase of the existing knowledge and extending the activities to other European regions not involved at this stage in the founding partnerships.  Some of the organizations brought together for these projects have already successfully participated in other projects and share common interests in terms of research topics and in terms of common networks.

Political and Economic dimensions

As mentioned previously, the aerospace sector requires a highly educated and innovative work force. As the sector operates in a long-term perspective of 20 to 30 years, the current policy framework and the assigned resources will shape and determine the performance and success of this industry for decades to come.

The sector requires a quantitative and qualitative employment preparation and forecast. However, Europe shows a demographic trend to aging population and declining of younger age groups. In the last three decades aeronautics industry employment saw a concentration of age structures, with most employees between 35-50 years old. Decreased recruitment rates of young persons, in part also related to longer education periods and more frequent use of early retirement schemes, has enlarged the weight of the middle aged employees. The main concern is, of course, that when these employees reach the age of retirement, replacement rates will increase. The aging of the baby boomer generation indicates that an increasing percentage of the workforce will be eligible to retire in coming years. This demographic change in association with lower proportions of qualified young people who are embracing mathematics, physics and engineering studies and careers is a major concern for the aeronautic industry.

In what concerns gender distribution, this sector is also characterised by an underrepresentation of women. The activities performed by women consist mainly of administrative and marketing tasks. The usual rule is: The higher the portion of manufacturing, the lower the quota of women . The progress in the feminisation of the workforce in past years is still limited. Initiatives to make working in this field more attractive to female students and trainees can contribute to overcome the shortage of qualified staff on the long term.

Social dimensions

In this context, the social dimension is directly related with the shortage of qualified personnel that will affect this sector in the future, unless there is a joint effort to attract, motivate and encourage young Europeans to embrace future careers in the field of Aeronautics.

This implies that the school and higher education community, academia and industry need to think and work more tightly to engage children and young adults in this field and to reverse this trend. Concluding, we can summarize that the demand for aeronautics professionals is necessary, especially due to:

  • The current demographic trends – ageing of the population and declining of younger age groups;
  • The competition with other industry sectors for skilled employees;
  • The insufficient education and training capacity to meet this high demand;

The lack of responsive learning methodologies to new evolving learning style and undersized awareness by the “next generation” of types of aeronautics careers available.

Technical dimensions

Statistics show a declining interest for natural sciences and engineering. In all European countries, science education starts with one general integrated subject and is taught in this way throughout the entire primary education. In several countries the same approach is continuous for one or two years into lower secondary education; and by the end of lower secondary education, science teaching has usually been split into the separate subjects of biology, chemistry and physics. At general upper secondary level, the large majority of European countries adopt a ‘separate subject’ approach and organise science teaching differently depending on streams and educational pathways chosen by students. In terms of higher education, the diversity is even higher with a pretty large variety of systems and programmes structures in each national system.

Consequently, not all students are taught science at the same level of difficulty and/or throughout all grades. Over the last six years, there have been general curriculum reforms at different levels of education in more than half of the European countries. These reforms have also obviously affected science curricula; the main driver for reform in many countries has been a desire to embrace the European key competences approach. In this context, countries have made efforts to integrate more context-based issues and hands-on activities into science curricula. The reforms in various countries where science skills were re-focused in line with key competences illustrate the desire of policy makers to raise the importance of science.

In order to increase motivation and interest in science, it is essential that the curriculum/tasks emphasises connections with students’ personal experiences and real life approaches. The activities recommended for science education should encompass hands-on experimental work and project work in its collaborative form, promoting varied forms of active learning and participatory inquiry approaches from primary level onwards.

Environmental dimensions

Environmental issues are more and more determining in the aeroespace sector. Due to the pressures associated to global heating, pollution and use of fossil fuels, the aeronautics industry has a constant urge to produce aircrafts and develop processes with minized environmental impact. The environmental impact here also has a strong economic impact: an aircraft which is not efficient will spend more fuel, pollute more and also demand for more expensive tickets and consequently loss of competititiveness.

Therefore, to promote aeronautics careers among youngsters and prepare them for the new challenges of strong technological development with environmentally sustainable solutions is also an important role of the projects here presented.



The main aim of the FLY HIGHER project was to attract, motivate and encourage young Europeans to embrace future careers in the field of Aeronautics. More concretely the project intended to:

  • Foster a close, open, informal dialogue and sustained interactions and networking activities between the aeronautics research community, industry and the school community (in particular primary and secondary schools).
  • Offer young people (namely students from primary and secondary schools) the opportunity to have contact with different real work situations in the aeronautic sector;
  • Raise awareness of young people about future career paths in aeronautics (including future work opportunities) and foster an enthusiasm for science education;
  • Provide teachers and other school professionals (including counsellors and career advisors) with the knowledge, training and tools to put theoretical frameworks in practice;
  • Provide students with new science learning methods and tools, with a special focus in simulations, real life applications and serious games.

The project implemented a wide programme of “EDUTAINMENT” activities including hands-on experiments; games and simulations, visits, open labs, workshops, exhibitions, competitions, science cafes, training for teachers and career advisers, speed-dating, organisation of a national event called “AIR DAY”, among other activities, etc. The materials created are available for free download in The FLY HIGHER consortium gathered partners from 5 different countries (Portugal, Spain, UK, France and Netherlands) which represent a full set of complementary skills and competences with special regard to aeronautics.


The project AIRVET brings together actors with complementary expertise from aeronautic industry and labour market, VET providers and bodies involved in Education and Training. This Alliance collaborates to improve the adequacy and attractiveness of VET training offer addressed to this sector. The main aim of the AIRVET project is to design, develop, evaluate and disseminate adapted/new AI curricula and VET curricula and training programmes addressed to the aeronautics industry, in order to better match with actual and future needs of the labour market.

The AIRVET consortium designed courses and modules fit for a variety of purposes and target groups, in an attempt to provide a wide range of training possibilities that suit several types of participants. The new training materials adress Human Factors topics and consist of:

  • Four courses with specific targeted modules in Human Factors to meet the needs of the areas identified within the aviation industry.
  • Nine e-Learning lessons. The content of the e-Learning lessons is closely related with other outputs of the AIRVET project, namely the four training curricula defined based on the skills/training gaps identified.

Both the courses and the lessons are available in 6 languages: English, French, Italian, Polish, Portuguese and Spanish .

Besides, AIRVET organised several activities to consult all relevant stakeholders about their needs, test the materials developed and disseminate the training and career opportunities in the aeronautics sector.


IN2SAI is an Erasmus project that deals with the challenges connected to low female participation in the AI and science studies in general: less than 15% of the workforce in AI is female; Most women choose to enroll in arts, human studies, and social sciences; Women that conclude studies in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM) fields are less likely than men to work in these sectors. With different actions and activities the project aims to increase the participation of female students in higher education studies in scientific fields (especially those relevant for aeronautics) and to contribute to their integration into the Aeronautic Industry (AI).

The activities of the project were designed to address the following target groups:

  • general community;
  • the academic system, including secondary and higher education system, (i.e. students, professors, researchers);
  • labour market/AI, including human resource managers, careers counsellors.

During two years (October 2013 to September 2015), the IN2SAI partners have carried out several activities aimed at understanding the main challenges to wider female participation in studies and careers related to aerospace, and contribute to the change of mind-sets and conditions that hinder gender balance in these fields. The project has conducted research, organised awareness raising events, contributed to bridge secondary education schools with universities and industry representatives, interviewed women working in aeronautics, and produced videos, among other initiatives. All public materials of the project are available free of charge in the website Most materials as well as the website pages are available in English, German, Dutch, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish.



We can summarise that the foremost added-value and main innovativeness of these projects is exactly the fact that all together they tackle, in a holistic approach in the AI field, different target groups, from primary and secondary school students to teachers/professors/trainers, as well as counsellors and Career Advisors, aeronautics key actors, higher education professors and researchers, VET trainers, industrial and recruitment agencies. This represents a true effort to promote professional inclusion and Sciences studies in Europe.

Key success factors

  • Establishment of Future Skills Priorities and identification of the needs of the target groups
  • A particularly focus on the target groups;
  • Strong and consolidated involvement aeronautic key stakeholders;
  • Well-balanced programme of activities
  • Strong focus on Sustainability of the project’s results


The projects have a strong focus on sustainability of the project’s results and the majority of the results developed are being used in some institutions at European level. The materials are downloadable for free in the websites of the projects.

Contributions to LLL Policy

These initiatives provide relevant contributes to the promotion of LLL in Europe in different areas: school education, VET and Higher education; in a medium and long term.

What could be appropriated by others?

– The materials developed are free and available to be used. Most are available in different languages;

– The methodology used for the development of the projects can be transferred to other sectors that are facing the same challenge of skills shortages.

3. Lessons Learnt

Regarding the building of a shared definition of LLL in LLL-Hub

LLL needs to be broad concept capable of encompassing different types and modalities of training. Therefore, mechanisms that allow comparability of systems and practices, such as the European Qualification Framework and the ECVET system are crucial to build bridges towards a common understanding of LLL.

Regarding the possibilities of having practices in LLL which evolve and become more innovative

Blended learning approaches including different learning methodologies and strategies are more and more promissing, as they allow to develop different skills and provide the most adequate training solutions depending on the characteristics of the trainees and content of the training. The projects presented here illustrate some possibilities: for example AIRVET project has developed 4 flexible training modules that can be implemented in different contexts and with different types of suport materials. AIRVET has also developed e-Learning lessons (that can be used in the computer or smart phones) which can be used autonomously or in integration with the training modules. LLL needs to evolve to integrate learning dinamics from the trainees themselves and foster learning among pears using different types of learning materials.

Regarding the key actors, their roles and activities in LLL

LLL is a field where contact with different types of actors is crucial. In the aeronautics sector this is particularly relevant, since ultimatelly LLL will serve to train the workforce to work in the aeronautics industry. If LLL is not able to consult the relevant Industry stakeholders, together with Education providers (e.g. Universities), research organisations, trainers and trainees (in this case youngsters, workers and future workers of the AI Industry), the impact of the training is limited. This is, therefore, a collaborative work, where the industry needs to sign the skills needs to address the sector trends, Universities need to indicate skills that need to be developed before, during and after Higher Education courses, Public Authorities (e.g. certification authorities) need to provide the institutional support (and other) required to enhance the credibility of the training offer, trainers need to cooperate in the development of flexible and innovative training paths, and trainees need to contribute to identify the best methodologies for their training needs.

Regarding the appropriateness between local / national and European frameworks and how to act upon them to make them converge

As mentioned before, European mechanisms that foster and create conditions for a more coherente and constructive dialogue between LLL stakeholders are crucial for LLL. Besides the “top-down” European initiatives, such as CEDEFOP studies, experts groups, skills forecasts, among others, all efforts from the stakeholders in the field are crucial. In this regard, European projects especially those under DG EAC, such as the LLP projects (currently ERASMUS+) that foster dialogue, development of curricula and various training initiatives involving different countries, are crucial

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