With youth unemployment at 52 percent in a country where more than half of the population is under the age of 35, programs that help bridge the gap between high school graduation and gainful employment are sorely needed. Not only are placements for training and entry-level employment in short supply, there is a need for programs in which information about career choices is made available to young people in a format which empowers them to make educated decisions about their futures, and inspires them to work towards opportunities in fields that may have previously seemed out of reach.
Boeing and South African Airways (SAA) are helping build that bridge with the September 2014 relaunch of the SiVulindlela Aviation Awareness Project, an interactive and educational program for students in grade eight through 11 that aims to make the opportunities available to them in the aviation and airline sectors more accessible. Daniel Mosely, Boeing communications manager, Europe and Africa,notes, “At Boeing we project a demand for 17,000 pilots and 19,000 airline technicians across Africa over the next 20 years. Project SiVulindlela is one way of connecting with the pilots and technicians of the future and opening the way for a successful career.”
With the innovative aid of an aircraft replica created within a mobile, flatbed-mounted shipping container, Project SiVulindlela offers youths hands-on access to a Boeing 737-800 cockpit, cabin seats, storage cabins and a demonstration engine. A typical workshop day begins with talks by SAA employees, who volunteer their time to share the personal journeys they have each taken to reach their current positions with the airline. Specialists share information on which subjects are important for students to focus on, should they choose to follow a career in aviation or with an airline. Then, students are encouraged to walk through the truck, handling the equipment and controls, and asking questions of facilitators, who are on hand to explain each aspect of the aircraft in language that the students can understand. Afterwards, a short question period concludes the day, with facilitators asking questions based on the previous activities. Students who provide the correct answers are rewarded with giveaways such as caps, backpacks and T-shirts.
“The project seeks to inspire young South Africans from disadvantaged backgrounds to take an interest in the wonders of flying.” –Tlali Tlali, South African Airways
“The project seeks to inspire young South Africans from disadvantaged backgrounds to take an interest in the wonders of flying,” says Tlali Tlali, spokesperson for SAA. “[It aims to] assist the youth to make informed decisions when choosing careers in aviation and to take a keen interest in mathematics, science and technology subjects. The SiVulindlela truck is a practical and unconventional way of creating interest and awareness in aviation.”
This project builds upon SAA’s Vulindlela Aviation Awareness Programme, which has been running for the past nine years. Until recently, the project was using an out-of-date aircraft replica lacking recent technological advancements. Boeing’s contribution enabled the custom-build of a new replica, a small-scale mock-up of the interior of a Next-Generation 737, with SAA providing the personnel and logistics. A partnership with the South African Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) and Basic Education (DBE) has connected the project to a wide network of students, with access granted to all schools across the country through the provincial departments of education.
The truck is scheduled to tour all of South Africa’s nine provinces, visiting as many schools as possible before moving on. It will also appear at career exhibitions, fairs and air shows that are open to the general public, to ensure as wide a reach as possible. SAA’s target is to reach a minimum of 30,000 young people per year, many of whom have never flown before or conceived of the possibility of working in the airline or aviation industries.
“Young learners have limited knowledge and access to information pertaining to aviation,” Tlali notes. “Gearing the sector for specialist skills and transforming the talent pipeline, Project SiVulindlela will allow for the provision of information, which includes a wider spread of career opportunities in the aviation sector, such as technicians, communicators and marketers.” While the main goal of SiVulindlela is to raise awareness of the airline and aviation industries and inspire young people to consider them as career choices, SAA also provides many longer-term training programs for interested youth, from business courses tailored to an aviation environment to commercial-pilot development to flight-dispatcher and cabin-crew training, as well as a series of technical apprenticeship programs.
Youth development will continue to play a key role in shaping a positive future for South Africa, with programs such as these at the forefront, spearheaded by companies like Boeing and South African Airways who possess the foresight to develop interest and knowledge in their industries at a crucial moment in young people’s lives. Their efforts to make resources, information and inspiration available to students could be the turning point that guides them into successful and fulfilling careers with the airlines or in aviation.