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Air traffic control students from Saudi Arabia graduate in NZ

The eighth cohort of General Authority of Civil Aviation students from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has graduated from air traffic control training with Airways International, 11 years after the first group to arrive in New Zealand completed their training.

GACA and Airways celebrated this milestone on Thursday, June 3, as 34 students attended their graduation ceremony in Palmerston North following two years of study in New Zealand.

Almost 200 students from Saudi Arabia have completed ATC training with Airways since the first cohort landed in New Zealand in 2009.

The graduates included four female students – the first Saudi Arabian females to train as air traffic controllers outside their own country. Saudi Air Navigation Services will employ the graduates on their return to Saudi Arabia and are prioritising hiring women in the ATC profession, with the aim to extend female employment and empowerment.

The organisation is offering theoretical and practical ATC training to 80 women per year to prepare them for work in the ATC sector – the first cohort of female ATCs started work in Jeddah in March 2019.

Hatoon Alotaibi, 21, is one of the female students to graduate with Airways. "It has been such a privilege to be one of the first women from Saudi Arabia to be offered this opportunity, I feel very lucky and I'm so proud to be one of the girls!" Hatoon says.

The graduation marks the students’ successful completion of a two-year scholarship provided by the Ministry of Education and GACA in Saudi Arabia. The students spent the first 12 months studying English at Kaplan International College, Auckland University of Technology and the Worldwide School of English, then completed a 12-month ATC training programme with Airways at its Palmerston North training centre.

Abdulrahman Alsuhaibani, the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to New Zealand attended the graduation ceremony.

"We congratulate the graduates on the successful completion of their ATC training programme," says Airways International Ltd CEO Sharon Cooke.

"We’re delighted to have partnered with GACA for the past 11 years to deliver ATC training to almost 200 students at our training facilities in New Zealand, and we look forward to continuing to support them in their future careers as Airways Training alumni."

The Airways scholarship gave the Saudi Arabian students a unique opportunity to live and study in New Zealand on their journey to become licensed air traffic controllers. The students stayed with local homestay families or in flats during their studies and were immersed in the culture and lifestyle of New Zealand during their stay.

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