COVID-19 has identified and exaggerated the consequences of significant problems with the current aviation education system, which must be addressed by extending skill sets, incorporating new technologies, and enhancing job prospects. Future aviation graduates must possess a skill set inextricably linked to the industry’s constant evolution. To achieve pandemic-resilient aviation, COVID-19 has shed light on several future workforce skills that may become essential. Future aviation employees will need to be able to effectively manage ambiguity and possibility. Numerous factors, including economic concerns and a lack of information/guidance, contribute to the unreadiness of the aviation industry for anticipated shocks. The inability to predict the probability and magnitude of such infrequent occurrences is a fundamental flaw.
Similarly, the cumulative response to COVID-19 over time has demonstrated that a substantial portion of the population, regardless of academic training, lacks a fundamental understanding of simple concepts such as exponential growth, phase transitions, and other fundamentals of mathematics and statistical physics. To produce an aviation workforce capable of preparing their companies for a pandemic-resilient future, these skills must be taught throughout undergraduate education. Consequently, aviation stakeholders must be better educated in system thinking, considering the nontrivial interactions between a system’s components rather than maximising a single component.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the ability to deal with virtual and augmented reality was revealed to be an undervalued skill. This begins with modest but chaotic video conferencing arrangements that persist for more than a year after the outbreak. Future technologies in virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) will significantly increase the entry barriers for prospective workers. Physical access to meetings and aviation equipment will always be a concern, particularly in the context of social distance limitations and travel restrictions. Numerous jobs that require physical access today will likely be performed in the future by small, semi-autonomous vehicles or robots, creating new learning opportunities. These robots must be controlled and monitored by humans using virtual and augmented reality to interact with their surroundings. The essential competencies emphasise human-machine and machine-machine interaction, alongside the acquisition of new methods to comprehend spatial and temporal representations. In a profit-driven enterprise, physical presence will outperform remote employment when these skills are lacking.
In addition to these technical skills, we believe that pandemic-resistant aircraft require a set of soft skills. Sustainable aviation requires a sense of social responsibility, which initially appears to be diametrically opposed to a profit-driven mindset. The second finding is likely one of the leading reasons why aviation stakeholders are reluctant to plan for a sustainable future. However, as a result of significant societal shifts, especially among the younger generations, future airline passengers will be more aware of issues such as climate effects and sustainable mobility. Therefore, airlines may need to adjust their business strategies to attract and retain the loyalty of these younger passengers. Motivated by various societal and personal factors, one of the businesses (either an existing one or a new one) may rush towards this rapidly expanding market of sustainability-conscious individuals. Thus, the economic argument should not be used to oppose the change in aviation; rather, this change should be encouraged by enhancing the workforce’s social competencies. Similarly, it has been suggested that aviation managers require a higher level of business acumen to facilitate pandemic-resistant aviation.
Last but not least, we wish to emphasise cultural sensitivity and communication/consensus-building skills. The ongoing COVID-19 epidemic has revealed a significant sociological trend: our global society is leaning toward a resurgence of strong nationalism; crises invariably cause context changes. COVID-19 may be viewed as a multi-layered disease, in which the medical illness caused by the virus is accompanied by a disease spreading from the breakdown of institutions and a change in the environment. It is not surprising that some groups, notably far-right movements, utilise the collapse of institutions and the political virus to develop new hate models and shift towards a stronger nationalism.
In light of the widespread use of social media, which allows these organisations to operate as a single entity and defame others, these tendencies pose a fundamental threat to our society. Given the global and interconnected nature of air transportation, we propose that its employees should be taught and educated in soft skills to facilitate peaceful and fruitful interactions with people of different cultures. Currently, airlines are working towards reopening; however, the primary motivation is not to restore global connectivity, but rather to resume normal operations (and profits) as soon as possible. Efforts to stop the spread of extreme nationalism must be significantly increased. With a significant increase in cultural knowledge and constructive dialogue among global actors, we anticipate that the capacity to reach compromises and agreements would be significantly increased.
Aviation is unique in its need for company-specific talents. As a result, it is difficult for educational institutions to produce aviation professionals who are fully certified, immediately employable, and proficient. Every industry, from airlines to manufacturing, has its own culture, operating procedures, and safety standards. Governments, educational institutions, industry participants, and regulators must therefore engage in complex coordination and interaction to improve the skill sets of aviation professionals. If any of these stakeholders are excluded, the likelihood of achieving long-term and sustainable education solutions will be severely diminished.
Regarding the required skill set, a significant mismatch between educational providers and clients has been identified. So long as educational institutions refuse to acknowledge and address their deficiencies in practice-based education, the path to a superior education will remain blocked. Recent research in the educational field indicates that today’s and tomorrow’s students require significantly more interaction in the classroom, which contradicts the concept of remote and solitary study. This setting has emphasised using games as instructional learning aids for several years. The justification for this is that such games frequently have an extremely motivating effect; they encourage participation without monetary compensation. This type of gamification has not yet altered education for various reasons. Creating a highly engaging educational game is a costly and time-consuming endeavour. Given that a single game frequently focuses on a small number of specialised skills, the perceived benefits are less than the costs. In addition to aviation knowledge, the game’s designers must have a background in human-computer interface and psychology.