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The Middle East Skills Shortage: A Bottleneck For Growth?

The region has big numbers forecast for its growth, but could a shortage of skilled engineers prohibit this?

Training is a hot topic in aviation. In a region like the Middle East, which is projected to grow at a rate of 6.9 annually up to 2026 according to Oliver Wyman, the issue is especially pertinent. Various forecasts have long-warned of the pilot and technician shortage being barriers to growth: Boeing data suggests the region needs as many as 66,000 technicians from now up until 2035.

At Aviation Week Network’s MRO Middle East, insight was given by industry professionals into what many see as one of the main barriers towards the industry’s expansion. While the bulging order books of aircraft manufacturers are highly publicised, the topic of skills has yet to gain wider

Adel Ali, CEO of UAE-based low-cost carrier Air Arabia, says skills was put to the forefront of the airline’s agenda in 2007 after it identified the trend of China enticing aircraft maintenance technician and pilots away from the region.

“Our plan has so far been successful but more needs to be done from countries particularly with large populations,” he said during his keynote yesterday (Feb. 8.). “These jobs are well paid and last forever.”

Cemil Sayer, technical director at fellow LCC SunExpress, believes like in other regions, the aircraft technician profession has an image problem particularly with young people.

“For the Middle East, a shortage of skilled labour is a bottleneck for MRO growth. The profession also suffers from not being viewed as attractive as it was ten years ago for young people,” he added.

To combat this, he feels more collaboration is needed across the industry – with everyone from MRO companies to regulators playing a part.

“A collaborative effort between authorities, aviation schools, MROs and maybe even an organization like IATA leading such projects could help create a synergy for companies to attracting new talent. Better training and human resource strategies are required.”

How companies react now on the topic is of critical importance and industry players have been proactive in addressing this. Boeing, for instance, plans to establish a training center in the Dubai South zone towards the end of 2017. Independents like SR Technics have also made moves to source talent by opening a new training center in Abu Dubai in late 2016.

TAGS: Middle East
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