SINGAPORE - Job recovery in the aviation sector is continuing apace, with about 4,000 new recruits in the first half of this year, said Transport Minister S. Iswaran on Sunday (Aug 7).
"This means we are able to attract people to join the aviation sector after a period of considerable challenges," said Mr Iswaran, who was speaking to the media on the sidelines of the Nanyang 57th National Day Carnival in Jurong West.
In an update on Singapore's recovery status as an air hub, he said the new ranks of workers have helped the aviation community and Changi Airport cope with the surge in volumes, which, in the first week of July, hit about 56 per cent of pre-Covid-19 levels.
"We now need to sustain that and increase the manning levels going into the year end, because we anticipate another significant increase in the year-end period."
He added: "We need to plan for that and make manning and operational adjustments - that is what everybody is working on right now."
He noted that one of the challenges with recovery has been manpower, because pre-Covid-19, the aviation sector employed about 35,000 people.
"At the end of last year, we were down to about 25,000...There was about a one-third attrition, which is a significant loss of capability when we are trying to ramp up fast," he said.
"Many airports have ramped up quickly, but then subsequently had to make adjustments and even scale back, because of the challenge of manning levels."
Besides recruiting people, he said aviation partners - including Changi Airport, airport services firm Sats and Singapore Airlines - are investing in training, as many recruits may be new to the sector.
He said: "They need to enhance their knowledge of the sector and operations and level up the skills needed to come up to speed, because it is critical for both operational efficiency, and also for safety... (partners) are investing heavily in the effort to train and bring them up to speed so that they can seamlessly fit into the operations."
He added that the sector is recovering well, and urged Singaporeans to consider careers in the sector, as many key players are recruiting and looking for good people.
Mr Iswaran also reiterated that the target is to get Changi Airport's handling capacity to its pre-pandemic level of 70 million passengers a year.
Both ramping up manpower and a series of scheduled openings of terminals are in the works in pursuit of this target.
Changi Airport Terminal 4 will reopen on Sept 13, and the southern wing of Terminal 2 will be opened for departure operations in October.
With these openings, the capacity of the airport will be at about 80 per cent of pre-Covid-19 levels, said Mr Iswaran.
"We are looking at making sure that the airport is able to get back to processing and serving passenger flows at that level," he said, adding that there are no explicit targets for the year end.
"But whether that actually comes about depends on many other factors that are beyond our control, because there are external factors, in particular, what is happening in some of our key markets in North-east Asia like China, Japan and (South) Korea."
He said the airport's capability and capacity for operations is not just dependent on infrastructure and equipment, but skilled manpower and especially Singaporean manpower "to ensure the continuity and recovery of our operations in Changi".
"But our preparation continues, because we need to make sure that we are ready for further improvement in the aviation sector," he added.