Optimism about the future of the Australian aviation and aerospace industry has been expressed at a conference held at the UNSW Business School. However participants also cautioned that the promise will only be realised if industry and government work together to take swift action to equip our workforce to meet new challenges in the Asian century.

Associate Professor Anne Junor from the UNSW Business School said “Our airports, including the new 24/7 Western Sydney Airport, need to be boosted as high quality maintenance hubs, linked to specialist suppliers of Advanced Manufacturing components and repair techniques.” The meeting emphasised that Australia will no longer be able to rely on offshore maintenance, even before 2025, given the looming global shortage of maintenance engineering personnel. This shortage will hit the Indo-Asia-Pacific region hardest.

She added “these skilled labour shortages will make it ever more necessary to ensure that quality workforce standards are not weakened. International harmonisation of safety standards and a firm regulatory oversight will be required for planes flying into Australia.”

Associate Professor Ian Hampson of the UNSW Business School commented it’s now time to examine all the strands of policy involved – licensing, training, international regulatory oversight, and approvals for manufactured parts. “A coordinated policy framework will be required to ensure that Australia takes advantage of the unprecedented opportunities to build aviation maintenance, through a network stretching from Australian branches of the global prime manufacturers such as Boeing and Airbus, to highly innovative small and medium advanced manufacturing businesses.”

“Maintenance training in particular could be a big export earner for Australia. Other export opportunities in aviation and aerospace training include training in advanced manufacturing techniques, in maintenance management and in safety auditing,” he added.

Ian Hampson said if we try to rely on imported and outsourced maintenance, we will find that it will become scarcer, more costly and ultimately of more variable quality. “We therefore need to move swiftly to expand our maintenance and aircraft through-life support, by training more engineers and making full use of our skill base.”

For further details contact Ian Hampson on i.hampson@unsw.edu.au or Anne Junor on a.junor@unsw.edu.au.

Media contact: Julian Lorkin: 02 9385 9887