By Kenneth Ehigiator
The federal government may have begun moves to address the shortage of skilled personnel in the aviation industry, even as it has vowed to clamp down on mushroom aviation training schools in the country.
Stakeholders in the sector have complained repeatedly about how inadequate skilled personnel had impacted negatively on safety, especially as airlines in Asian countries had in recent times swooped on the qualified hands in the industry to sustain the growth recorded in their industries.
Governmentâ€™s current efforts has culminated in the granting of Approved Training Organisation (ATO) to another training centre, Aeroconsult Limited, by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), the regulatory agency.
With the certification, Aeroconsult is expected to offer basic and advanced flight operations officer/flight dispatcher courses for personnel in the aviation sector.
The Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Zaria, had been the only institution in the country with ATOâ€™s certification to train skilled hands for the industry.
Speaking at the presentation ATO certificate in Lagos at the weekend, Director-General of the NCAA, Dr. Harold Demuren, said the certification was done with a view to having another institution for training of hands for the growing aviation sector in the country.
According to him, NCAT is no longer adequate to train aviation personnel, especially in the face of the growth being recorded in the industry.
â€œOnly NCAT and Aeroconsult have ATOs in Nigeria.Â Nigeria is a very big country and NCAT has not been able to meet demands.Â Therefore, we need more ATO training centres in the country if we are to fill the void created by exodus of good hands in the industry,â€ Demuren said.
He described the ATO certification as one that goes through a very stringent process, adding that it took Aeroconsult over five years to get the certification.
Demuren also disclosed that Kwara State government has applied for the certification for its aviation academy in Ilorin
He noted that the certification of Aeroconsult would save cost and foreign exchange not only for airlines and other aviation service providers, but also Nigeria, stressing airlines in the country have been spending so much in foreign exchange to train their staff overseas.
According to him, ATO centres in the country can now conduct even better training for airline staff at reduced cost.
He said: â€œ What training you spend N20,000 to achieve in our ATOs, you will spend over $5,000 to do outside the country.â€
Demuren said the NCAA would soon clamp down on mushroom institutions conducting aviation courses in the country, and appealed to Nigerians to avail it of information concerning such schools.
â€œAs long as NCAA is concerned, only NCAT and Aeroconsult Limited are the only recognised ATO centres in the country,â€ he said.
Speaking in a similar vein, Managing Director, Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Engr. Ibrahim Auyo, said without adequate skilled personnel, the volume of money invested in upgrading facilities in the aviation sector would not have any positive impact on safety.
According to him, there is significant growth in the nationâ€™s aviation industry, reflected in passenger volume, aircraft movement, general aviation operations, aircraft acquisition and number of state and privately-owned aerodrome, which has brought to the fore the need to train adequate personnel to drive the growth.
In view of the growth, Engr. Auyo suggested that while NCAT is devoted to primary training of personnel, Aeroconsult should be made to concentrate on secondary training.
Auyo said:Â â€œThe Nigeria College of Aviation Technoogy, Zaria, whose primary responsibility it is to meet the manpower needs of the industry, has no doubt made significant contributions to the development of the Nigerian aviation industry.
â€œHowever, with the tremendous expansion in the industry, it is virtually impossible for NCAT to meet the training needs of the various organisations in the industry.Â Therefore, it will be more expedient for NCAT to concentrate on primary or basic trainings, while other ATOs with the required expertise and resources can concentrate on secondary training.
â€œSecondary training courses should generally include professional development courses aimed at facilitating the acquisition of new skills and enhancement of competency levels; assisting operators, service providers and regulators keep abreast of new regulations, procedures, standards, best practices, technology, amongst others.â€
Aeroconsult Managing Director, Engr. B.A. Obadofin, said the first batch of the centre, who graduated in August 2009, have all obtained their licenses from Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, following its certification.
Obadofin, who noted that Aeroconsult conducts courses for airlines, airline agents, cargo handlers and parastatals in the aviation industry, said the ATO certification just received by the centre derived from International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) requirements.