School-leavers urged to consider career in air traffic control amid predictions of rapid growth in flights

As the UK’s airports gear up for what could be their busiest summer on record, NATS, the UK’s main air traffic service provider, is calling on students receiving their exam results to consider a career in the aviation industry. Graduates are also being encouraged to apply.

To help give a picture of the challenging and rewarding role played by Air Traffic Controllers, NATS is offering a short news package ‘Day in the life of an ATC’ with Sarah Wood, an Air Traffic Controller at NATS.

Ever thought of a career in air traffic control?

Ever thought of a career in air traffic control?

The industry is set to grow rapidly over the next ten years and despite advances in technology, skilled-workers will remain at the industry’s core.

This summer is likely to be the busiest on record with daily flights peaking at over 8,800 in a single day. It’s predicted that by 2030, 355 million passengers will fly to and from the UK on over 3.1 million flights – that’s an additional 500,000 extra flights per year.

NATS currently has around 1,670 controllers whose job is to safely manage the flow of aircraft through the UK’s busy and complex airspace, as well as at 13 of the country’s busiest airports.

With the forecast growth in flight numbers and the value the aviation brings to the UK economy NATS is looking to recruits hundreds more ATCs over the coming years.

Air traffic controller candidates are only required to have 5 GCSEs (grade 4-9), do not need a degree, are paid to train and when qualified can earn a six figure salary with additional benefits so it’s surprising that research conducted by NATS reveals that only 6% of 16-25s have ever received advice on careers in aviation.

It revealed that jobs in retail, professional services and health were four times more likely to be discussed in career interviews than aviation.

The survey also showed that the majority of 16-25s are attracted to job roles that include solving puzzles, working as a team, delivering under pressure and doing something of national importance – all key aspects of a career as an air traffic controller.

“We are running this recruitment drive because air traffic is on the increase. NATS is investing millions of pounds in new state of the art technology to help manage that growth but people are still at the heart of keeping the skies safe, so that is why we need to recruit the next generation of air traffic controllers.

I think it would be really great if more schools and colleges were making more young people aware of the range of careers available in aviation but particularly air traffic control. One of the problems I think is what NATS does, and air traffic control in itself, is quite an invisible infrastructure. A lot of people don’t really know about it or realise that we’re there. I think that contributes to the challenge.

It’s actually really hard to say what sort of person would make a successful controller. These are innate cognitive skills that people may or may not know that they have and that’s why we would really encourage people to apply. In particular we would love to see more women and individuals from ethnic minority backgrounds apply.

In terms of “what does the role entail?”, there are a lot of core skills around teamwork, problem solving, working under pressure, and being able to process information quickly and accurately.”