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Aviation offers exciting and diverse employment opportunities

Careers in the aviation sector extend far beyond finance specialists and airline management and include pilots, maintenance engineers, air traffic controllers, and much more

A career in aviation conjures up images of blue uniforms and gold braid but the aviation sector offers a variety of different career paths. Photograph: iStock

A career in aviation conjures up images of blue uniforms and gold braid but the aviation sector offers a variety of different career paths. Photograph: iStock


For many people, a career in aviation conjures up images of blue uniforms and gold braid or of ice cool air traffic controllers averting disaster as a matter of routine. While the reality may not live up to such romantic ideals, the aviation sector does offer a variety of rewarding career paths which extend far beyond pilots, controllers and financiers.

“The sector supports roles in accounting, deal analysis and pricing, credit analysis, technical management and inspection, third-party asset management and marketing,” says Arthur Cox aviation partner Laura Cunningham. “Not all of these roles will necessarily require prior experience in the aviation sector and those looking to enter the sector may be enticed by attractive salaries and the opportunity to work in an exciting, fast-moving and truly international industry.”

“We provide recruitment services for leasing companies and the third-party service providers that support them,” says Roisin McArdle, managing director of specialist recruitment firm AerTalent. “The roles we hire for are quite specialist and include finance, credit risk, pricing, marketing, legal, and technical positions. There are also technical roles with a strong commercial focus for people who are protecting the assets by ensuring that when the aircraft goes on lease, the maintenance and other conditions are adhered to. These are office-based roles which are two steps away from the metal.”

KPMG Ireland head of aviation finance and leasing, Joe O’Mara also points to the importance of technical, engineering and other support roles to the aviation finance industry. “Engineering and maintenance professionals are very important to the industry,” he says. “There will always come a point in time when the lessor has to take the asset back and return it to marketable condition and lease out to another airline or sell it on.”

High standard

And many of these professionals are trained to an exceptionally high standard by the Irish Air Corps. “Companies based in Ireland don’t see the aircraft,” says Capt Stephen Connolly, a pilot and press officer with the Irish Defence Forces. “They rely on the experience and training of technicians and other professionals to look after the aircraft for them. Pilots can be sent anywhere in the world to pick up an aircraft while technicians can be sent out to Hong Kong or wherever to service an aircraft.”

Air Corps training opens up a range of career opportunities. “We are also trained airmen and women and provide the same services to the State as other members of the Defence Forces,” says Connolly. “We have the same opportunities to serve overseas as other members and are trained to that standard to carry out a wide variety of work. Life after the Defence Forces is very open-ended. Most of the leading companies in the aviation leasing industry in Ireland have staff who are Air Corps-trained. We are not just trained aviators and technicians, we are military trained managers and we understand how to manage a team and bring them along.”

Those interested in a career with the Air Corps should consider studying Stem-related subjects at second level. “We have all sorts of people including one with a masters in theology and others with MBAs. Science subjects are always preferable – maths, physics, applied maths. We look for people with technical minds. That makes life a lot easier as a pilot or a technician. Technicians and pilots are expected to be able to deal with mathematical problems quickly.”

In the private sector, Ryanair offers a vast range of career options. “We have 16,000 staff across Europe and jobs include traditional office roles such as finance, HR, and commercial,” says chief people officer Darrell Hughes. “Ryanair is a large multinational fully headquartered in Ireland and Ireland is at the centre of all decision-making. That proximity to decision-makers is very attractive to people.”

He highlights two areas outside of these more standard roles – engineering and IT. “We employ a lot of trained aircraft engineers in our technical services department. We run a very successful graduate programme for engineers and this feeds into Ireland’s reputation for aviation leasing where we have helped build a very strong talent pool of specialists in that area.

“On the IT side, we established the Ryanair Labs function five years ago to drive sales and improve customer experience. We have three big hubs with 150 in Dublin, 100 in Madrid and 250 in Wroclaw in Poland. The people there are working on the digital experience for customers and doing a lot of very exciting stuff in data. We run one of the largest travel websites in the world, with 60 million hits a month. People working on it can point to features they’ve developed. It’s a great motivation to be able see the output of your work.”

‘Great fun’

He describes working for Ryanair as “great fun”. “We work really hard, we don’t beat around the bush, we take no nonsense and we do a lot of straight talking. It’s a great place to grow and develop a career. We want people who will roll up their sleeves and get stuck in. The fact that we are growing means we offer great career opportunities and we have a strong bias towards promoting from within.”

People with ambitions for a career in the aviation sector should consider contacting the Irish Aviation Students’ Association (IASA). “The association was set up six years ago by a group of students in DIT,”explains Elizabeth Shields, head of marketing with the association. “There was no organisation for people interested in the aviation industry. It’s a not-for-profit initiative run by a dedicated team of third-level students from across Ireland and we run events aimed at bridging the gap between students and the industry.

“We held a career expo last October with 700 students and more than 30 employers from the aviation industry. It’s great to see how supportive the big names in Irish aviation are. When I first thought about the industry, I thought about pilots and air traffic controllers but there is much more. Flight deck, ground handling, aircraft engineers, maintenance, and the people on the ground are just as important as those in the sky.”

Laura Cunningham has some advice for people wishing to work in the leasing sector in particular. “There are a number of educational programmes in Ireland specifically designed to meet the needs of the industry, such as UCD Smurfit School’s MSc in aviation finance, diplomas in aviation leasing and finance offered by both University of Limerick and the Law Society of Ireland, and DCU’s BSc in aviation management. Such qualifications can help a candidate stand out from other competitors considering a move into the sector. Employers in the industry will always be attracted by an ability to demonstrate commercial awareness, so prospective employees should keep up with industry developments by availing of some of the many publications and subscriptions relevant to the sector.”