‘The Second Sex’ was once on the Papal Index of Forbidden Books. ‘One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman,’ professed Simone de Beauvoir. She argues that ‘humanity is male and man defines woman not herself but as relative to him.’ He is essential. She is incomplete. He imposes his will on the world whereas woman is doomed to inwardness. But every human life is an intimate interplay of immanence and transcendence. Historically however, women have been denied a transcendent role. The aviator Amelia Earhart remarked that for women “…her wings are cut and then she is blamed for not knowing how to fly.”

Today is World Youth Skills Day. According to the UN, youth are almost three times more likely to be unemployed than adults and continuously exposed to lower quality jobs, greater labour market inequalities, and longer and more insecure school-to-work transitions. Young women are even more likely to be unemployed and under-paid. That is why education and training are key determinants of success in the labour market. But unfortunately, existing systems are failing to address Sustainable Development Goal Target 4.4, which calls for a substantial increase in the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills.

In November 2017, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) convened the inaugural Next Generation of Aviation Professionals Global Summit in Montreal, Canada. At this event, Dr. Fang Liu, Secretary-General of the ICAO, confirmed that her organization had updated its forecasts for three key air transport professions: pilots, air traffic controllers and aircraft technicians. She revealed that 620,000 pilots will be needed by 2036, to fly the world’s 100-seat-and-larger aircraft. But even more important than this figure is the fact that no less than 80 percent of these future aviators will be new pilots not yet flying today. A similar story is playing out with respect to the future air traffic controllers, maintenance personnel and other technicians needed. These are just a few of literally hundreds of direct and indirect aviation-related career categories being impacted by current air transport growth and attrition factors. These ICAO figures concretize the need for more and better skilled aviation personnel in the years to come, not only to increase the overall numbers but also to replace those who are retiring.

Dr. Liu proposed three main solutions: (i) facilitating access to aviation training and education programmes which lead to dependable recruitment opportunities and shorter-term career advancement returns; (ii) shedding light on the full range of aviation professions including: information technology and cybersecurity specialists; specialists in unmanned aircraft systems and drones; baggage management specialists; airport managers and directors; and (iii) instilling greater aviation awareness in high school and younger students, and especially young girls, in addition to continuing  work with the university-level and young professional demographics. Attracting women to the industry is an important priority. Eight decades after Amelia Earhart’s failed solo flight, 29-year old Shaesta Waiz, an Afghan refugee, became the youngest woman in history to accomplish a round-the-world solo flight in September 2017.

The Transport Storage and Communication sector, of which aviation is a part, has the potential to prioritize development of aviation services within this non-oil economic sector, in keeping with the diversification agenda of Trinidad and Tobago. Two factors account for the role that an airport plays in air cargo operations. First, the metropolitan area acts as an attractor of freight, linked to consumer market demand, high added value manufacturing activities and cold chain logistics (perishables, pharmaceuticals). Second, there is the decision by freight forwarders to use an intermediary location within their network, which often spans continents. Airports such as Anchorage, Memphis, Louisville, Liege and Leipzig have almost the totality of the cargo they handle attributed to their connecting role. Panama City is a hub that services two ranges- (i) the circum-Caribbean, via a hub-and-spoke network structure, and (ii) a latitudinal intermediacy, connecting medium and long haul destinations in the northern and southern hemispheres.

The time is ripe to encourage our girls to enter the aviation industry as air transport professions and for the former US Army Camden, Waller and Carlsen Air Bases to be revitalized inside a plan to become intermediary locations for cargo from selected ‘Lima Group’ members like Chile, Canada, Colombia, Peru, Brazil, Argentina and Guyana.