Call for students as air traffic service demand rises

Media caption,
Who keeps the skies safe for planes?

Students with five GCSEs could earn a six-figure salary as air traffic controllers, according to the UK's main air traffic service provider.

National Air Traffic Services (Nats) wants pupils to consider aviation careers as it says flight numbers are set to surge.

There are more than 8,000 UK flights a day this summer, the busiest on record.

Nats launched its recruitment drive in Wales ahead of A-level results day on Thursday.

The service currently has about 1,670 controllers who manage the flow of aircraft through UK airspace, at 13 of the UK's busiest airports.

Daryl Rowlands, general manager for air traffic control at Cardiff Airport, described the work as "challenging, rewarding, and fast-paced".

"Our research shows that's exactly the type of job young people aspire to have," he said.

But he added that people were put off if they thought there was an "educational barrier", saying applicants just need five GCSEs to qualify for training.

Only 6% of 16 to 25-year-olds have ever had advice on aviation careers, according to the group's research.

Image caption,
It is expected that by 2030, there will be an extra 500,000 flights per year

Ben Lapworth, 30, from Coventry, has been working as a trainee at Cardiff Airport for the last three months and described it as "tough" but "really rewarding".

"I'd say if you're looking for a challenging career that changes daily, it's definitely worth it," he said.

The service's successful candidates do not need a degree and are paid to train.

Demand is increasing for air traffic service providers too. It is expected that by 2030, there will be an extra 500,000 flights per year.

But Mr Rowlands warned that qualifying for the training was tough.

"Some people can't think and absorb problems quick enough and think quickly of a solution. The success rate for candidates to qualify for training is only around 1%, so for every one controller we can start training, we need around 100 applicants.

"But we're saying 'think about air traffic control and give it a try'."

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