MRO Industry Grappling With Engineer Shortage

The maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) industry needs to boost the size of its workforce to cope with the world’s growing feet of aircraft at a time when engineers are coming under increasing pressure on the job, making the industry less attractive to new recruits.
“This industry is 24/7 and has a harsh demand on a person’s time,” says Alex Choo, assistant honorary secretary of the Singapore Institute of Aerospace Engineers (SIAE), as well as a qualified engineer.
Choo was addressing delegates Nov. 2 at AVIATION WEEK’s MRO Asia conference and exhibition in Singapore.
He says the shortage of skilled and qualified maintenance engineers means those that are in the industry are being required to work longer hours.
Choo says many MRO firms are trying to make up for their staff shortfall by poaching from other MRO companies. The other tactic MRO firms are using is to recruit maintenance engineers from the air force or related industries such as the marine industry, he says.
But a longer-term solution is to get schools to include aerospace in their curriculum, he says, referring to both vocational training colleges as well as high schools.
Kingfisher Airlines Maintenance Instructor Chander Mohan Bhatia told delegates that the global economic downturn in 2008 and 2009 saved India’s airline industry from experiencing an acute shortage in engineers as well as pilots and cabin crew. But he says now that the airline industry is picking up again—and aircraft orders are being filled—we are going to get a shortage of manpower.
Even if MRO firms train new people, it takes one and a half years for these recruits to get up to speed and become useful, he adds. He also stresses that the MRO industry needs to ensure it recruits people with the right attitude and aptitude.
The need to attract more people in the industry has added impetus in Singapore because the local authorities have forecast that the city-state’s new MRO hub, Seletar Aerospace Park, will create 10,000 jobs over five years, says Choo.
03/11/10 Leithen Francis/Aviation Week

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