The University of the Witwatersrand School for Economic and Business Sciences, conferred the inaugural Aviation Management Development Programme (DP) Certificates to 13 Air Traffic and Navigation Services (ATNS) employees, at a special graduation ceremony, held at the Wits Professional Development Hub in Braamfontein on Friday 22 March 2013.

This qualification is the first of its kind in the African continent. The Programme, which carries an NQF Level 7 rating, started on 20 July 2012, and ended mid-March 2013.

Dr Tim Hutton, the Head of Business Development at Wits Enterprise, thanked the graduates for being cooperative and willing to go the extra mile while studying at the university. He further said: "This is a groundbreaking programme and is a first step in taking South Africa and the rest of Africa to another level – in terms of aviation innovation".

Zuki Sgelem, an Engineering Technician based at the OR Tambo International Airport ATNS Technical Support Centre, said the course was challenging. "Having worked for ATNS for 15 years, it took me out of my comfort zone."

Kalyvani Chetty, a Principal Air Traffic Controller at King Shaka International Airport in Durban, Kwa Zulu Natal and one of the top two graduates who earned distinctions, added her voice by mentioning that flying from another province regularly to attend classes in Gauteng did not dampen: "my resolve to achieve the best results."

Professor Robert Vivian, The Acting Head, Wits School of Economic and Business Science said when most people see change in the world they live in, they wanted to change the way things are done. "In order to change the world, we need to understand the world first. The fundamental principles and laws of physics, research and science do not change. Apply those to change the world".

The ATNS Women’s Development Programme (WDP) aims to provide a platform for women employees – with no formal qualifications in aviation – to better their skills, knowledge and competencies. This Programme is part of the wider ATNS Leadership and Development Programme that has been tailored for all ATNS employees who exhibit special talents and who show clear growth potential in their areas of work.

ATNS, in terms of its Employment Equity Policy, took a strategic decision in August 2011, to accelerate the development of women within the organisation, and to contribute to a marked degree, such development in the Aviation industry as a whole. The developmental scope includes but is not limited to academic empowerment, skills development, coaching and mentoring.

By developing women in this way, ATNS is determined to prove that careers in Aviation are not gender-specific.

Keynote speaker and ATNS Projects Senior Manager, Brenda Mashika, in her address congratulated her fellow colleagues by mentioning that aviation is a very vibrant and dynamic industry. "Ours is an industry that knows no limits. It soars above high altitudes and connects people around the world. ATNS has a rich history in this industry. Its commitment to excellent service provision to the aviation community has helped it to rise to new heights."

"This year is a remarkable year for our company. We are delighted to be celebrating our 20th anniversary birthday. Today is an historic occasion because we have the first cohort of Aviation Management Development Programme graduates being conferred today. ATNS is proud to be collaborating with a top university that is renowned for its academic excellence. Our company is truly unlocking winning partnerships," Mrs Mashika concluded.

Wits is considering ATNS’s ambitious recommendation for a possible Aviation Senior Management Development Programme (SMDP). This will not only benefit ATNS employees but each and every South African – who have a distinguished and unparalleled passion for aviation.

ATNS, like any other leading and competitive organisation, wants to attract, develop and retain skilled women.