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Tight Engineer Markets Down Under

Singapore pays well, but restricts foreign hiring; Chinese mechanics do not roam, yet.

During 2018, Australia and New Zealand experienced a shortage of aircraft engineers, according to Lewis Purcell, sales director of ALG, which recruits engineers and mechanics all over the world from offices in Australia, Singapore, Manila and New Zealand. Last year saw many short- and long-term modification and heavy checks down under, and the pool of engineers was quite small. “With Australian and New Zealand airlines generally sending the majority of their maintenance overseas in the last 15 years, it has resulted in a decrease in the number of engineers entering the market,” Purcell notes.

Southeast Asian countries generally have a strong demand for aircraft mechanics, Purcell observes. “However, each country poses its own unique problem.” For instance, Singapore offers higher salaries, so its attractions are strong. But Singaporean restrictions on working visas for foreign staff make it difficult to meet demand from local airlines and MROs.

Through a joint venture in China, ALG also has offices in Beijing, Shanghai, and Xi’an. Purcell says Chinese MROs, airlines, and OEMs have good programs for introducing local Chinese candidates to aviation engineering and maintenance. “However, the demand for training, experts and highly experienced foreign personnel is strong.” This is especially true for people with expertise in EASA and FAA Part 145 rules, continuing airworthiness management, non-destructive testing (NDT) and aircraft modification.

In any case, current Chinese wages are sufficient to attract and retain talent. “Chinese aircraft mechanics generally do not look to move overseas,” Purcell says. So higher pay in places such as Singapore and the Middle East “are not a draw card, yet.” Although ALG’s stronghold is Asia-Pacific and North Asia, it also has projects and a strong client base in the Middle East, Europe and North America.

ALG placed mechanics in line and base maintenance, engines, workshops, NDT, design and modification and other specialties. It takes mechanics from apprenticeships all the way to licensed jobs and management positions. The company has partnered with European and Australian training organizations to up-skill candidates in courses ranging from human factors to Boeing 787 type courses.

ALG is also active with its own apprenticeship programs and engages recent retirees or semi-retirees to train and instruct staff and ensure veteran’s knowledge does not disappear from the industry.

TAGS: Workforce
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