Jet engine maker GE Aviation to hire more than 300 workers next year

Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong during GE Aviation Singapore's anniversary event at its facility in Loyang on Nov 22. PHOTO: GE AVIATION

SINGAPORE - Aircraft engine manufacturer GE Aviation will hire more than 300 workers here next year as the aerospace sector continues its recovery from the devastating impact of Covid-19.

The US company, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in Singapore on Monday (Nov 22), had to cut its workforce here by about 600 last year, retrenching some and placing others in other companies temporarily.

But it has begun recruiting again, with about 260 jobs filled between January and September this year, GE Aviation Singapore managing director Iain Rodger said.

Another 250 workers are expected to join the company by the end of the year, and staff headcount will be back to pre-pandemic levels by mid-2022, he added. Mr Rodger said the company has had continued growth over the past year as airlines pivoted to cargo flights and borders began to reopen.

A portion of GE Aviation's global jet engine component repair volume was also shifted here from the United States - a big reason behind the company's current recruitment drive, which is ahead of the overall market trajectory, he said.

Some GE Aviation plants in the US were forced to shut due to Covid-19, and higher productivity at the three plants here gave Singapore the edge, Mr Rodger added.

The Republic accounts for over 60 per cent of GE Aviation's global repair volume.

Mr Rodger said most of the new roles that need to be filled here are volume-related, such as technicians for the shop floor. But his firm is also looking to hire more automation and robotic engineers as well as data analysts as it adopts new technology.

GE Aviation currently employs more than 1,700 workers in Singapore, of whom 56 per cent are locals. The company is looking to hire more local engineers and technicians, though there have been challenges in finding people with the right skills.

The company also relies on workers from across the Causeway, so the expected vaccinated travel lane across Singapore and Malaysia's land border "can only be a good thing for us", Mr Rodger added.

Other companies in the aerospace sector are also making a comeback and embarking on recruitment drives to rehire laid-off workers or fill new job roles.

Manpower Minister and Second Minister for Trade and Industry Tan See Leng said last month that aerospace companies here are looking to fill around 1,000 positions over the next two years.

For instance, US aerospace giant Pratt and Whitney had said that it is looking to hire 250 new staff here by year end.

This was after it had retrenched 400 employees here in August last year.

Speaking at GE Aviation Singapore's anniversary event on Monday, Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong said Singapore's aerospace manufacturing output fell by 26 per cent last year and some firms had to resort to cost-cutting measures.

But with the Jobs Support Scheme as well as training and upskilling packages, aerospace companies and their workers are better equipped for the sector's recovery.

Mr Gan noted that the aerospace industry grew 22 per cent in September this year compared with September last year, and urged companies to build up capabilities in digital services, autonomous technologies and sustainability.

"While it may take time for air travel demand to return to normal, the industry's long-term prospects remain positive," he said.

Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong looking at new additive manufacturing technology that was developed by local GE Aviation engineers to repair aircraft engine parts. PHOTO: GE AVIATION

On Monday, GE Aviation unveiled new additive manufacturing technology for repairing engine components. Called direct metal laser melting, this process has been used to manufacture jet engine parts, but GE Aviation Singapore's plant in Loyang is the first facility in the world that has been approved to use it for repairs.

"There are parts flying with this repair already," said engineering manager Ngiam Shih Tung, 54, who led the project.

The new process, developed by local engineers with support from GE Aviation technology centres in the US and the Singapore Economic Development Board, is essentially 3D printing of metal components. It produces parts that require less post-processing compared with the old process of welding.

"It takes one minute to do what used to take five minutes to do and the overall effect is that each employee can produce twice as many parts," said Mr Ngiam.

Mr Rodger said the new process is more environmentally friendly and will help GE Aviation customers get their planes back in the sky much faster.

"It is a testament to the skills of the Singapore engineering team," Mr Ngiam added.

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