UNESCO backs Fly Your Ideas to engineer tomorrow’s world

In May 2012, UNESCO – the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation – granted patronage for the third edition of Fly Your Ideas.

UNESCO’s growing Engineering Initiative and Airbus’ global Fly Your Ideas student challenge address a shared goal: nurturing future talent worldwide. This goal is critical to sustainable development and at Airbus this is an issue close to our heart. One of the biggest challenges facing our industry is in getting the right balance of people. While we ourselves continue to attract the best of the best, there are not enough aviation engineers currently graduating to meet industry needs. Nearly half of them switch to other careers once they qualify.

In many countries, engineering suffers from an image problem. The crux of the problem is that young people, including women and those in emerging nations, need to be reinvigorated with the fascination and excitement of engineering. This calls for less formulaic and more problem- and project-based approaches with hands-on application in order to improve its appeal to students and relevance to employers.

In 2010 UNESCO published the first-ever international report on engineering – ‘Engineering: Issues, Challenges and Opportunities for Development’ unesco.org. The report attributes declining interest in engineering to misperceptions of the subject as ‘boring’, overly ‘complex’ and a more difficult route to success than related careers. According to UNESCO, a lack of qualified engineers is already a principal obstacle to growth. The decline in enrolment in most countries is a major concern for future capacity in growing and emerging industries.

Whilst this is an issue affecting the whole industry, Airbus has worked hard to maintain a track record of attracting, nurturing and retaining the best talent throughout our global presence. Employing some of the industry’s brightest minds, Airbus is committed to expanding this pool of talent further, by reaching out to aspiring future talent not just in Europe and the U.S., but throughout the world.

By building on an existing network of academic institutions worldwide and by developing strong partnerships through school liaison and outreach programmes, we hope to motivate future talent about the exciting opportunities a career in aviation opens up. In so doing, we not only continue to attract the best and brightest minds to Airbus, but help to address the wider perception of the engineering industry.

Fly Your Ideas forms a crucial part of our work in this. With this challenge we hope to help stimulate and better equip a growing and more diverse community of future talent – those who can rise to the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow’s world.

As Dr Lidia Brito, Director of the Division of Science Policy and Capacity Building, UNESCO, puts it: “Airbus is giving students a rare opportunity to apply classroom learning in a real world environment – and with access to senior figures from the aviation industry.  It underlines the central role of engineering in creating our sustainable future and gives students a chance to experience that adventure.”

With UNESCO’s support, we hope to spread the message.