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Winning the battle for aerospace talent across Asian skies



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With Asia as the world’s fastest growing aviation market, Teo Ee Mei, Pratt & Whitney’s regional head of HR presents ways to attract and retain qualified aerospace engineers.

It is no secret that Asia is today the fastest growing aviation market in the world, mirroring its increasing importance in various aspects of global trade and commerce.

Airbus and Boeing project that in the next two decades, Asia will account for more than a third of all passenger traffic worldwide. These planes will need to be built, flown and maintained by an entire talent ecosystem – from pilots and aircraft technicians to air stewards and bag handlers.

For this reason, we believe the shrinking pool of qualified aerospace engineers presents a major long-term challenge the aerospace industry needs to address.

In Singapore, where most of Pratt & Whitney’s Asia operations are based, the government has long identified aerospace as a strategic hub industry, and has done its part to ensure the pipeline of young talent remains robust.

For example, all five of the country’s polytechnics and all but one of its five universities offer aerospace-related programmes, with industry collaborations being the norm rather than the exception.

Each year, hundreds of newly minted diploma and degree holders refresh the talent pool for aerospace players such as Pratt & Whitney.

The recently introduced “SkillsFuture Earn and Learn Programme” will lower the cost of onboarding new recruits, while also giving companies the opportunity to observe and assess hires at close quarters.

A two-way talent street

While these initiatives are a step in the right direction, the onus of developing young talent cannot rest solely on the government. Aerospace companies must do their part to grow and support the talent ecosystem; it is a two-way street.

The onus of developing young talent cannot rest solely on the government. Aerospace companies must do their part to grow and support the talent ecosystem; it is a two-way street.

There are many different ways that aerospace companies can contribute, regardless of size.

Those of us in the aerospace industry know just how valuable international exposure and a global outlook can be. An engine assembled in Connecticut might have parts manufactured in Brazil, Germany, Singapore and many other parts of the world.

To provide students with some measure of international exposure, we have participated in the overseas industrial training programme where students from Singapore are encouraged to perform attachments in overseas facilities for periods ranging from a few weeks to several months.

Participating students are given the opportunity to hone their technical skills and gain knowledge which they may not have access to in Singapore.

This hands-on approach to learning should not be limited to students as even teachers can benefit from being students.

With this in mind, we invited polytechnic lecturers to undergo the same training modules professional aircraft engineers receive, allowing them to draw from these experiences to help bring their lessons to life in the classroom, and hopefully inspire more students to consider an aerospace career.

Keep them, once you have them

If the battle to attract talent to the aerospace industry seems challenging, the retention of skilled talent presents an all-out war.

If the battle to attract talent to the aerospace industry seems challenging, the retention of skilled talent presents an all-out war.

We are at a point today where employees are more educated than ever, yet somewhat paradoxically, we also beginning to (rightly) recognise the value of continuous education, formal or otherwise.

At Pratt & Whitney, we provide a wide range of internal courses to help employees remain industry relevant and to keep their skills sharp.

For example, at one of our facilities in Singapore, employees can choose from more than 180 courses to further develop their technical skills and expertise.

Collectively, our staff spent 21,000 hours last year on upgrading themselves, an average of more than 30 hours per employee.

The manufacture, assembly and maintenance of increasingly complex aeroplane engines require that we make every effort to nurture a culture of innovation.

In addition to the in-house training we provide, we recognise the value that external formal education can have on employees.

To this end, sponsoring them fully, we actively encourage our employees to pursue their passions by furthering their studies.

Ever since the UTC Employee Scholar Program was introduced in 1996, more than 37,000 degrees have been earned by Pratt & Whitney employees in over 50 countries worldwide.

To summarise, there is no doubt in my mind that, with the massive growth opportunities in aerospace ahead of us, winning the war for talent will make all the difference.

Image: Shutterstock



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