Aviation sector set to restore workforce by up to 90% of pre-Covid-19 level by year end

Changi Airport Group has said it and its airport partners have more than 6,600 jobs available. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

SINGAPORE - The aviation sector is expected to restore 85 per cent to 90 per cent of its pre-Covid-19 pandemic workforce by the end of the year after losing about a third of its more than 35,000 workers during the pandemic.

Senior Minister of State for Transport Chee Hong Tat on Friday (May 27) said the industry has begun a recruitment drive that will persist in the coming months to keep attracting people to the recovering aviation industry.

For a start, almost 2,000 people will be hired during the OneAviation Careers job fair, where he was speaking.

The event is being held at the Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre on Friday and Saturday.

"This is the first of many more sectorwide efforts. We have to ensure that the sector has the manpower it needs to keep pace with the recovery of air travel and tourism," Mr Chee added.

His remarks gave the first glimpse of a timeline for the recovery of manpower in the aviation industry in Singapore, which, like the rest of the world, is suffering from a crunch after the departure of workers amid low flight volumes in 2020 and 2021.

Changi Airport Group (CAG) has said it and its airport partners have more than 6,600 jobs available, and the first day of the fair drew over 6,000 fresh graduates, those looking to switch industries mid-career and even retirees.

Even before the doors opened at 10am, a small crowd was already waiting to enter.

By the afternoon, queues for on-site interviews for the more popular companies, such as Singapore Airlines and the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), had stretched to a six-hour wait.

Jobs being advertised include cashier for duty-free operator Lotte, auxiliary police officer for Certis Group and artificial intelligence technologist for aircraft engine-maker Rolls-Royce.

There were also job openings for cooks, cleaners, and business and data analysts, among others.

A teenager was at the SIA booth asking what he should do to become a pilot when he is older.

Madam Huang Lizi, 67, queued for three hours for a job interview with Lotte and cargo handler dnata. She told The Straits Times after her interview that it went by so quickly she had no time to be nervous.

The former manager of a food packaging business had not been working since 2018, but still went to the job fair with her friend as aviation has been "very high profile lately".

"I wanted to see what the fuss is about. I'm still able and don't want to rot away, so I'm willing to take whatever they offer me," she said.

"They asked me about myself and told me that I was eligible for two to three positions. I'm looking forward to hearing from them.

Mr Suhairi, 29, who goes by only one name, said he is ready to return to the aviation industry after he left it as a baggage driver in 2017 to become a Ninja Van freight supervisor.

He had switched jobs as he wanted to spend more time with his family but now feels that "nothing replaces the airport environment".

Mr Richard Goh, 66, said the job fair helps him get the information he needs about job prospects much faster.

"I immediately know whether they are okay with my age, my experience, and I won't have to go online to submit my portfolio."

In the last two years, he has worked part-time as a delivery driver and a supermarket cashier, after losing his job as a project executive in a manufacturing firm when his company closed down during Covid-19.

"I want to find something that will at least last me the next few years."

A crowd at the OneAviation Careers job fair at the Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre on May 27, 2022. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

Ground handlers Sats and dnata, which are key to the functioning of the airport, were two of the most aggressive hirers at the fair.

With passenger numbers now nearing 50 per cent of pre-pandemic levels and increasing, processing time for check-ins, and the time taken to handle luggage, food provision and other services must be accelerated.

Sats said it has about 600 positions available, from ground staff to passenger service agents and support equipment drivers.

Dnata said it has about 300 jobs, and between 30 and 40 people were hired on Friday.

"It may look like a lot but it's not, just 10 per cent of what we need," a spokesman said.

CAAS director-general Han Kok Juan said the industry is rebuilding differently, focusing on sustainability and digitalisation.

Hiring the correct people will make sure the industry rides this wave of growth and seizes new opportunities.

"The number of jobs will increase and diversify beyond the traditional areas. We want to replenish our ranks, as well as bench strength for the air hub," he added.

A new dedicated CAAS unit for sustainability set up in April, for instance, will have to grow in size in the year ahead.

"This job fair is important because it brings the entire aviation sector together to convey a very strong message to Singaporeans that we are back in business and to invite them to join us to rebuild the Singapore air hub together."

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