Tertiary Education and Skills Training Minister Fazal Karim says the T&T’s first aviation institute will position this country as a regional leader in the aviation industry and provide much-needed personnel to fill thousands of vacancies worldwide. He said so on Monday as he turned the sod in Camden, Couva, for construction of the long-awaited institute, which has a start-up price tag of $20 million for its 20-acre layout.
T&T, Karim said, was poised to become an aviation training hub with the construction of the institute, the first of its kind in the region. Karim, speaking with reporters, said the institute “will be a centre of excellence in the entire Caribbean and Latin America” and would be open to all students here and within the region dreaming of a career in avionics. He said at the institute UTT would not “only be training locals for a local industry, but a global industry with homegrown professionals.”
Karim, together with University of T&T (UTT) officials, T&T Air Guard officials, Land and Marine Affairs Minister Jairam Seemungal, Transport Minister Stephen Cadiz and Caribbean Airlines officials, formally commissioned the start of construction, which is expected to be completed by September. He said he gave UTT a deadline of December 16 to formally commission the institute.
The minister also signed memoranda of understanding with Art Williams & Harry Wendt Aeronautical Engineering School, AgustaWestland (AW) and Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, all of which will partner with the institute. He said it would utilise the airstrip at Camden.
“The vision is that this (airstrip) will become an active runway and the centre for aviation, nothing like you have ever seen before in this part of the world,” he said.
A total of 16 students graduated from UTT’s first avionics programme and T&T Air Guard Applied Engineering programme.
New job opportunities
Karim said between 2005 and 2015, 73 per cent of the American air traffic controller population woild be eligible for retirement and that provides an opportunity for local aviation graduates. He explained that more employment opportunities would be open to graduates of avionics in the not-too-distant future. “By 2030 twice as many people will travel worldwide, that is some 5.9 billion. Cargo could triple to nearly 150 million tonnes. This increased connectivity is expected to support 82 million jobs and US$6.9 trillion of global GDP.
“These projections made by the globally recognised International Air Transport Association (IATA) in 2012 are based on traffic growth of about five per cent annually. “In the next 20 years, airlines will need to add 25,000 new aircraft to the current 17,000-strong commercial fleet,” he said. Additionally, Karim said, by 2026, 480,000 new technicians would be needed to maintain those aircraft and over 350,000 pilots would be needed to fly them.
Among the graduates was Homwatie Ramlal, 30, of New Colonial Road Central, Barrackpore, the lone female graduate. Speaking with the T&T Guardian after receiving her certification in avionics (x-electrical and instrumentation), she said she was thrilled to be part of the programme.