The Learn & Fly ERASMUS+ project team completed elaboration of the Careers KIT describing 60 different aviation professions: from designing, through manufacturing to air transport and flight operations. The young generation, mainly 15-17 years old students, were also engaged in aircraft construction projects. The challenge here was to inspire them to follow the carrier within the aerospace sector. That is why, as a project team, we had asked aviation professionals to provide testimonies for different occupations and their career paths. This way students could learn more about the real work environment.
Back then, we wanted to know what matters most for these professionals in mostly technical professional experience. We were also curious what message they would like to pass on to young future industry workers – youngsters, students, and interns. Now, reviewing these testimonies again, we were genuinely stroked by how often our respondents talk about…soft skills!
Is it surprising? Maybe a little bit, because in the survey we have not mentioned any social or personal soft skill nor even have asked about social or personal development. The questions we had asked were as follows: a. What do you like most about your professional work? b. What surprised or pleased you the most at work? Why would you recommend this career path to others? c. What difficulties did you encounter at work and how did you deal with them? d. Which part of the educational path was the most important? e. Other interesting experiences related to the industry?
In Poland, we have gathered 25 complete testimonies of Polish professionals working in diverse positions and with different specializations in Aviation Valley companies. The majority – 17 out of 25 of respondents mentioned soft skills as a part of their professional experience and as important as their technical and operational knowledge.
Many of the respondents described ABILITY OF ADAPTATION TO CHANGE as typical for the aviation sector:
- I was surprised by the rapid rhythm of work and changes of priorities – you have to make decisions dynamically. – Metallurgist
- It requires you to focus, be flexible, and be responsible. It is [working in aviation] full of challenges, but you also would not be bored here. – Junior Metallurgist
- Continuous risk identification, process risk management, and keeping it at an acceptable level. – Safety Manager
Others underlined the importance of COGNITIVE FLEXIBILITY and TEAM BUILDING SKILLS:
- I was positively surprised by how warm I was received by the employees who were willing to help and teach me. It is worth trying your hard at aviation, but it is a job that requires knowledge and openness to new challenges. – Junior Constructor
- Professional work also allows me to improve on what I have learned before as well as get to know and develop new solutions and technologies. Working in an aviation company also allows me to meet new people, cultures. – Mechanical Engineer of Aircraft Engines
- The most interesting aspect of the work is creativity, the ability to implement and verify your ideas, continuous development, and direct contact with highly specialized industries. – Construction Engineer of Special Tools (Director of the department)
- Interpersonal skills and creativity in the introduction of new solutions, good practices, or instructions for conduct are of great importance in my work. – Quality Control Engineer
- There are several advantages to working at the airport, including the ability to work in English, communing with airplanes and other aircraft, the ability to prove yourself in emergencies requiring quick decisions, and acting under time pressure. – Airport Operational Officer
But that were pilots who expressed how INTELLECTUAL CURIOSITY and complexity of skills required for the job is important:
- For me, the most important part of the educational path was self-improvement and goal realization (…). – Commercial Pilot (F.O. Airbus A320/321)
- The implementation of the aviation task is associated with the involvement of all skills, abilities, attention – in one word – all resources. – Rescue and Military Pilot (Major Rank)
- In pilot education the most important are: fluency in English, spatial orientation, and the ability to the permanent acquisition of information and skills. The last is very important for processing this information for decisions to be made. – Commercial Pilot (First Officer)
ANALYTICAL AND CRITICAL THINKING was also an important part of at least 10 testimonies such as:
- The aviation industry is very demanding, which means that all tasks should be carried out very conscientiously and accurately. (…) Together with our colleagues, we create a well-coordinated team that solves the task together and help each other. – Intern in Strength Analysis Department
Aeronautics requires mostly skills in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and the challenges related to them are well-defined and ambitious and give most of our respondents a strong feeling of purpose in their work. Nevertheless, coming changes related to Industry 4.0, are primarily the transition to a different level of communication between the organization and its environment. Therefore the Qualification Map for the aviation sector will need to include more and more soft skills. The industry workers already give these skills the importance which is going to grow stronger in coming years.