IAA looks at capacity expansion

Monday, 17 September 2012 02:06 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  •  Currently discussing new courses with local and international universities

By Cheranka Mendis

The training arm of SriLankan Airlines, International Aviation Academy (IAA), is on an aggressive expansion plan, launching its services overseas while concentrating on capacity development and local youth engagement to the industry.

IAA, which provides International Airline Training Association (IATA) accredited courses to those in the industry as well as those wish to join, was recently recognised as one of IATA’s top 10 authorised training centres in South Asia.

Having opened its first overseas training centre in Maldives mid August this year, IAA is now planning to establish itself in the international market by moving into train at the Aviation Academy in Trivandrum, India. IAA is also committed to train persons from Maldives, New Guinea, and India, as well those from Gulf Air on technical areas of airport functions and airlines.

Having grown exponentially over the past two years from 50 to 500 students and launched eight programs over the years, IAA Development Manager Buddhika Hewawasam stated that the academy generates revenue of Rs. 36 million annually.

“Looking at the industry demand both here and globally, there is a huge potential for careers in the field of aviation,” Hewawasam said. “What we provide at IAA is internationally accredited, therefore opening many paths in aviation, be it at SriLankan or with any other airline.”

Listing out the courses offered, Hewawasam stated that the IATA approved courses were IATA/UFTAA Foundation in Diploma in Travel and Tourism, IATA/UFTAA Consultants Dip-loma in Travel and Tourism, IATA/FIATA Cargo Introductory Courses, and IATA Airline Cabin Crew Training.

SriLankan Airlines courses offered by IAA are the Flight Operations Officers Dispatcher Program, Airport Passenger Handling Foundation Course, International Airline Cabin Crew Certificate Programme and Self Enhancement for Future Professionals.

“What we want to do is to break the misconception that only people of a certain background or certain calibre can enter the aviation industry. We also want to make people aware that cabin crew is not the only lucrative job in the industry. We want to give an opportunity for the rural youth with potential a chance to be part of an industry that is rapidly growing and is looking for skilled and qualified workforce.”

Hewawasam stated that the industry had been growing 20-30% annually on a global scale and countries such as Singapore and the Middle East look at Sri Lankan trained workforce to be recruited to their operations each year.

“Our trained professionals are constantly being recruited by the said countries. Therefore, we are keen to expand our capacity as it would benefit both individuals as well as the country.”

He assured that as at now, 96% of those who trained under IAA have been recruited in various fields of the industry within three months after course completion.

The courses are conducted in Colombo and Katunayake and IAA has a 17-member lecture group that teaches the subjects. Annually 82% pass the qualifications.

Speaking of beyond border expansion, Hewawasam noted that the courses offered at Maldives are priced at a higher level than in Sri Lanka. Having opened its operations on 15 August this year, the first intake will start programs in October this year.

Applications are being called at the moment and so far the response has been exceptional, he said. “We hope to start with four programs with 20 students each. Therefore our initial batch will consist of 80 students.”

IAA offers financial support for those who are interested in the courses through introducing instalment basis payment schemes, bank loans schemes and scholarships.

IAA is also working with the University of Moratuwa to form a National Diploma in Aviation while discussing possibilities with Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) to facilitate an Advance Certificate in Aviation Marketing program. Currently IAA is working with the Travel Agents Association of Sri Lanka (TAASL) to strengthen human resources in the industry through a line of programs conducted by IAA as well.

The academy is also in discussion with two foreign universities to set up a higher qualification degree for the industry. “We are also looking at a hospitality qualification as well,” he said.

Together with the civil aviation industry, IAA is also looking at providing higher end training as well. With a partner in Canada, a program to train chefs and bartenders according to international levels will also take place from next January. The next step is to set up three satellite training facilities in Jaffna, Batticaloa and Mattala to train those who are interested in the area.

“This is a high revenue generating business with scope for our local youth to build a highly successful career. IAA is looking forward to train more and more youth both here and abroad who are enthusiastic and confident and who are passionate about the industry,” Hewawasam added.