Unesco is supporting European aerospace company Airbus' "Fly Your Ideas" challenge, a student contest which aims to inspire a new generation of engineers.

An in-depth report by Unesco about future engineering capacity highlights an engineering skills gap that threatens industry and growth. Aviation is no exception. There are not enough aviation engineers currently graduating to meet industry needs and nearly half of them switch to other careers once they qualify.

Through its "Fly Your Ideas" competition, Airbus is offering students an insight into the world of aviation. It is one means to boost their interest in the industry.

The global contest has just opened for its third season and challenges students worldwide to develop new ideas for a more sustainable aviation industry. It involves three rounds with five teams to be chosen as finalists in the summer of 2013, each with the opportunity to win a £24,370 prize. All teams are supported by an Airbus mentor during the development of their project, and new this season, an Airbus expert will offer advice at key stages of the competition.

"Engineers can change the world. With Fly Your Ideas we want to excite young people about aviation and the fascinating opportunities it holds," Charles Champion, Executive Vice-President Engineering at Airbus and Fly Your Ideas Patron stated.

"Technological skills are changing and having the best technical skill isn't always enough to ensure a flair for innovation, to promote an idea, or the relationship skills required to lead multicultural teams and be effective in our global industry. Fly Your Ideas offers students from all disciplines the chance to innovate and work together in international, multidisciplinary teams," he said.

The Fly Your Ideas challenge is part of Airbus' Future by Airbus, a pioneering vision of sustainable aviation in 2050. University students of any nationality or discipline from engineering to marketing; business to science; information technology to design are allowed to participate in the event.

"Airbus is giving students a rare opportunity to apply classroom learning in a real world environment - and with access to senior figures from the aviation industry," Dr Lidia Brito, Director of the Division of Science Policy and Capacity Building, Unesco said. "The Airbus Fly Your Ideas challenge is a blueprint for how industry and academia can work together to bridge the classroom-boardroom divide. It underlines the central role of engineering in creating our sustainable future and gives students a chance to experience that adventure."