Asia-Pacific MROs Grapple With Growing Workforce Shortage
SINGAPORE—The Asia-Pacific region’s rapidly expanding aftermarket is placing even higher demands on MRO workforce than within other regions across the globe.
Boeing’s 2022 Pilot and Technician Outlook forecasts that Asia-Pacific will need 250,000 new technicians over the next decade, which comprises more than 40% of global technician need over that time period—and the most of any region.
Despite slower recovery progress than the rest of the world, aftermarket companies are scrambling to fill technician demand in the region. Lufthansa Technik Philippines is looking to fill 275 jobs at its new Pasay Bay hangar, and Safran plans to create 500-600 new jobs at its upcoming MRO facility in Hyderabad, India. In addition, the region is seeing a spate of other new MRO facility and expansion projects from companies such as ACN Aero Teknik, Asia Digital Engineering, Collins Aerospace and SIA Engineering Company.
Pratt & Whitney hired 250 new workers in Singapore in 2021 and it is hoping to grow its Asia-Pacific workforce this year to more than its 2019 level. Tim Cormier, the OEM’s vice president for Asia-Pacific aftermarket operations, told Aviation Week that the company plans to add approximately 900 new staff this year, around half of which will be in Asia-Pacific.
Growth in freighter conversions at companies like HAECO and GAMECO will also likely contribute to Asia-Pacific’s job growth over the next decade, with technicians needed to staff new freighter conversion lines.
However, as with the rest of the world, MROs in Asia-Pacific are reporting challenges in finding enough qualified workforce to meet demand. “It’s a tight labor market [at the moment]. It is certainly hard work to hire people in a competitive [environment] like this,” Pratt’s Cormier told Aviation Week.
Simon Chee, assistant director of career services, alumni and corporate relations at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) Asia, says several factors are limiting new entrants to the industry. Chee says technician salaries in the region are trending lower than those in the U.S. and Europe, and competition from other industries is poaching talent away from aviation.
“With the increase in the cost of hiring foreign talents in Singapore, aviation companies should consider adjusting employee salaries to retain and recruit new talents,” Chee suggests. “The job as a technician and engineer is not the cleanest or the most glamorous. If we do not solve the current manpower shortage, MRO companies will have more challenges recruiting and retaining talent.”
Chee says aftermarket companies in the region need to work closely with schools to build a solid, secure pipeline for fresh graduates and create more confidence in aviation’s career prospects for younger generations that are worried about industry stability post-pandemic. He says ERAU Asia implemented mandatory internships for all its degree programs in July 2020, which “has proven to be extremely valuable to both aviation companies and students” by allowing students to explore aviation’s various sectors and introducing more talent to companies.
Companies are also getting directly involved in setting up new aftermarket training resources in Asia-Pacific. In August, Airbus partnered with India’s GMR Group to establish an MRO training program at GMR School of Aviation in Hyderabad. The OEM predicts that India will need 45,000 new aircraft technicians over the next couple of decades. It is providing training to the school’s instructors as well as learning resources, such as trainee handbooks, an examination database and online access to its customized basic training modules and Airbus Competence Training.
MTU Maintenance Zhuhai also began construction earlier this year on a new training facility in China that is expected to open in early 2023. The facility is expected to train between 50-100 engine maintenance mechanics annually.