First apprenticeship programme for commercial airline pilots approved!

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Cleared for take-off!

The first ever apprenticeship standard for commercial airline pilots in the UK – developed by a group of leading aviation employers – has been approved for delivery, paving the way for a more accessible career option for many, as well as creating a wider talent pool for aviation businesses.


Developed by the Aviation Industry Skills Board specialist sub-group chaired by TUI UK and facilitated by People 1st International, the apprenticeship standard for first pilot officer is supported by leading aviation employers, including British Airways, FlyBe, EasyJet and Virgin Atlantic Airways, and has the backing of the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA), and the Honourable Company of Air Pilots.

The introduction of the apprenticeship also works towards the Department for Transport’s proposed aviation strategy – Aviation 2050: the future of UK aviation – in ensuring the industry has at its disposal a ready supply of talent to meet both current demand and future need.

What is the sector saying?


Sandra Kelly, UK Skills & Policy Director at People 1st International which has supported the development of 18 apprenticeship standards across the visitor economy, including five in aviation, comments:

“We’re delighted that the first officer pilot apprenticeship standard has been approved for delivery. Having supported the Aviation Industry Skills Board in developing the standard, we look forward to welcoming a more diverse talent pool, supporting accessible careers and enabling social mobility with a standard that offers clear progression routes into higher level positions in this diverse sector.”

Captain Stuart Gruber, Director of Flight Operations, TUI Airways, adds:

“It’s fantastic news that the standard for the pilot apprenticeship scheme has been approved. We’ve been really proud to lead on the development of this industry-first scheme and we’ll now move to working on the necessary next steps to get the recruitment process live. As a pilot myself, I’m really passionate about what an exciting opportunity this apprenticeship represents to those looking to join the aviation industry. It means that becoming a pilot will be a more accessible career option for many, and provide a platform to diversify the profession.”

Wendy Pursey, Head of Membership & Career Services, BALPA comments:

“BALPA has been working with the industry to get the first UK pilot apprenticeship programme off the ground. This is important to open up the profession to all those who are capable and passionate about flying, not just those with the deepest pockets. Anyone wanting to become a pilot usually has to find around £100,000 to fund their training which puts a flying career out of reach for too many people. Piloting should be an equal opportunities career; we hope the new pilot apprenticeship programme will make that a reality for more people.”

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