Guiding over 2.5 million flights carrying some 250 million passengers is no mean feat, but thanks to a combination of state-of-the-art technology and the expertise and dedication of our people, that’s exactly what NATS achieves over the course of every year.
But by 2030, we’re expecting another 1.5 million flights in UK airspace, and in order to meet that future demand, we’re looking more controllers to come and join us.
Despite air traffic control being an exciting and rewarding career, our research has uncovered that few people are aware of it as a career option – and if they do, they don’t think it’s one for them. In fact, 85% of young people we surveyed had never considered a career in aviation, with jobs in retail, professional services and healthcare being least four times more likely to be discussed in careers meetings.
But why? One of the main issues is visibility. Air traffic control is the invisible infrastructure that keeps airlines and airports moving around the globe safely and efficiently, but you can’t see it – and you rarely hear about it either.
Another problem is the misconception that it’s a hugely stressful job with very high academic entry requirements, when the reality is neither of these things is true. So, to tie in with exam results time we’ve launched a nationwide recruitment campaign to find the next generation of air traffic controllers, and you could be one of them…
Our air traffic controllers play a hugely important role in keeping our skies and passengers safe.
Aviation and the air traffic control profession offers young people a vibrant and fulfilling career path.
Liz Sugg, Aviation Minister
August can be a nerve-wracking time for those receiving important results and weighing up their career options, but being an air traffic controller is less about educational capabilities and more to do with the cognitive, innate skills that you probably don’t even know you have.
While it’s impossible to say exactly what type of person makes a good controller – we have great controllers from all walks of life at NATS – we are looking for people who can process information quickly and accurately, have good spatial awareness, are good decision-makers, and can work as part of a team.
Meet Sarah. She’s been an air traffic controller for five years and now works in our London Area Control centre in Swanwick, Hampshire…
Entrants only need five GCSEs (A*-C/4-9) including English and Maths to apply and once through the recruitment process, trainees will go through NATS’ ATC training programme in Hampshire, Spain or Gloucester before being posted to one of our airport towers or control centres to then become fully validated controllers.
As well as offering trainee controllers a rewarding, exciting and varied job doing something truly important, air traffic control is one of few jobs where you don’t take your work home with you.
It really is a fantastic career, but don’t just take our word for it…
I love my job. I had never considered ATC. It was my mum who saw the recruitment ad in the paper. I applied and was accepted ☺️I joined at 21, spoke to my first real aircraft at 22, valid radar controller at 23. The rest is history. Thanks mum 😘✈️🚁 https://t.co/TS9dFH7v4x
— Amanda (@AmandaR4444) August 3, 2018
I never went to uni, but have a job I love, paid very well for it, represent the UK internationally within my industry, met some amazing people, been given some fantastic opportunities, people from around the world seek out my advice/knowledge. Uni isn’t the be all/end all.
— Adam Spink (@adamspink) August 16, 2018
— Michael Cockcroft (@MCCockcroft) August 16, 2018
My life changed the day that I was accepted by @NATS to train to become an ATCO. I still remember the phone call to my dad to tell him…he cried a little bit (dad’s not an emotional man) He cried again the day that I validated.
There is no other job like it#avgeek #airtraffic https://t.co/SVXrpkdKpn
— Kimmi G (@That_Girl_ATCO) August 13, 2018
One of the best decisions I ever made. 17 years later, I still love my job and don’t regret taking that leap of faith. https://t.co/EDNJbrKKXW
— Kathryn Parker (@KathrynMParker) August 12, 2018
I’ve worked for @NATS for almost 20 years and loved every minute. Before that I drove lorries for 10yrs and delivered milk for 5. I didn’t go to university. I was 33 when I started. If I can do it, anyone can. https://t.co/DAp5zekhZd
— Sean Harrison (@_Odi_) August 6, 2018
For more information about becoming a trainee air traffic controller, or to apply, visit our careers page.
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