CAAS reaches out to younger students

CAAS reaches out to younger students
Muhd Asri Abdul Aziz, 15, inside the Heart of Aviation Explorer bus when it stopped at Hillgrove Secondary School yesterday.

SINGAPORE - Efforts are being made to attract more, and younger, students into the aviation sector to ensure there will be enough manpower when Changi Airport's mega Terminal 5 opens in about 10 years.

Manpower will also be needed to support the growth of Singapore's aerospace sector, which focuses mainly on the maintenance, repair and overhaul of aircraft.

As part of a larger programme to attract, develop and retain talent within the industry across all levels, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) is, for the first time, working closely with secondary schools.

Traditionally, the focus has been on polytechnic and Institute of Technical Education students, but there is a need to start earlier and to reach out to more schools, said the authority's director (aviation industry division) Daniel Ng.

"After Secondary 2 is when students start to think of what they want to do. This is where we want to come in and help to influence those decisions. By the time they go to polytechnic, they would have more or less made up their minds," he told reporters at Hillgrove Secondary School in Bukit Batok yesterday.

The school is the first stop for the Heart of Aviation Explorer, a mobile exhibition bus which showcases Singapore's aviation sector, including plans for Changi Airport's future development.

The bus will visit about 30 schools and community spaces throughout the year.

Hillgrove Secondary is also the first school to receive government funding of up to 70 per cent of total costs - capped at $150,000 - to support aviation-related activities and programmes over three years.

The new scheme was announced by Senior Minister of State for Transport, Josephine Teo, who was the guest of honour at the launch of the bus exhibition.

Singapore's aviation sector currently employs about 50,000 people, and the demand will increase as new developments including Terminal 4 and Jewel - a retail-cum-airport structure - are launched in the next few years, said Mr Ng.

He did not say how many more workers will be needed but added that even as plans are in place to attract new talent, there is also a focus on boosting productivity to reduce reliance on manpower.

For example, the airport is pushing for do-it-yourself options for passenger check-in and other services, so that fewer manned counters are needed.

Despite the push for productivity, more workers will still be required.

While the polytechnics and other tertiary institutions produce enough graduates to meet current needs, it is a challenge to retain workers, or make current jobs attractive.

There are plans to address this and details will be shared later, Mr Ng said.

Hillgrove student Chung Zhuo Han, 16, who is part of the Singapore Youth Flying Club, said: "I hope to become a pilot, but even if I don't make it, I definitely want to work in the aviation industry.

"It's not about the money or whether you work in an air-conditioned room or not. Most important, I must enjoy what I do."

This article was first published on Feb 17, 2015.
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