By: Dr Wan Mazlina, Head, Training & Continual Professional Development (CPD) at Malaysia Institute of Transport (MITRANS), UiTM Shah Alam, and Senior Lecturer at Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, UiTM.
The breakout of the Covid-19 pandemic has created havoc around the world. The implementation of the movement control order (MCO) in March 2020, has caused millions of job losses in Malaysia and around the world and paralysed the aviation businesses both locally and globally. According to Statista Research Department, the Asia Pacific region has been affected badly by the corona virus outbreak. As of 7 April 2021, it is estimated approximately 11.2 million personnel working in air travel related industries have lost their jobs.
With the current lockdown, in Malaysia, it is predicted that the losses to the aviation industry will increase further. Air Asia is preparing to lay off more staff on the furlough basis if the interstate travel ban continues. Since October 2020, Air Asia and Air Asia X have retrenched 10 per cent of their 24,000 employees which were mainly pilots, cabin crew and office administrative staff. So did Malaysia Airlines and Malindo Air.
When we mention Aviation industry, we tend to think about commercial airlines and airports staff, and we tend to assume that pilots and cabin crew are the ones affected by retrenchment exercises. There are other personnel who are also impacted such as aircraft maintenance, technicians and engineers, ground crews, ground handlers, suppliers, repair and maintenance contractors, retailers, administrative officers, and other aviation related businesses. Business and General aviation services and roles are most often overlooked.
The Aviation industry is highly regulated with its own specific regulations and training programme. It has its advantage where staff are specialised in their fields such as pilots, airlines crew, aircraft engineers or technicians, however a new career in other fields would be limited if they become jobless as a result of circumstances.
With the current situation, it would be better for the aviation related staff to attend upskilling or reskilling training program to enhance their knowledge and to stay competitive in the Covid -19 era. Currently, most aviation training centres or academies that offer aviation courses in Malaysia mainly focus on Pilot Training programmes which are offered by certified private training centres such as Malaysia Flying Academy, International Aero Academy Sdn Bhd.
There are also private and public universities such as Management & Science University (MSU) – BSc In Aviation Management and Piloting, Admal Aviation College – Diploma in Aviation (Pilot Training) and Universiti Tun Hussein Onn (UTHM) – Bachelor of Aeronautical Engineering Technology (Professional Piloting)
Another popular aviation course offered by training academies and universities in Malaysia is Aircraft Maintenance License Programme, which is offered by Malaysia Airlines Academy,
Bachelor in Aircraft Engineering Technology in Mechanical and Avionics conducted by Malaysian Institute of Aviation Technology (MIAT), Nilai University, MSU, TAFE College, International College of Yayasan Melaka and a few more small training colleges in Malaysia.
Besides that, University College of Aviation Management (UniCAM) offers Diploma in Aviation Management and Degree in Airline & Airport Management, KTAC Cybernetics International College of Technology offers Certificate in Aviation Management, whereas renowned public universities such as UPM, UTM, IIUM, UPNM, USM offers aerospace or aeronautical engineering programmes from degree to PhD levels. These types of programmes are more incline towards design and research rather than skill or management-based outcome.
Careers in the field of aviation cover a broader spectrum, from airports, commercial airlines, business and general aviation, air traffic control, cargo, ground handling, retailing, logistics, law, finance, safety, and management.
To run an airport alone, requires multi-disciplinary qualifications, experience, and talent staff. Unfortunately, in Malaysia, there is no academic institution or training centre that offers dedicated programmes for airport management or operations.
As for air traffic control training, Malaysia Aviation Academy (MAvA) under CAAM offers specific short courses for air traffic controllers to perform their job, upgrading their skills or handling the air traffic operations and the courses are being certified by the authorities. However, MAvA does not offer undergraduate or post graduate programmes which are recognised by the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA).
Apart from pilots and aircraft engineers/technicians most of the aviation industry personnel do not have the specific qualifications and they only gained their certification, knowledge, and skills when they join an organisation, either being sent to attend short courses or gathered the knowledge based on their experience and learning from superiors or colleagues.
Therefore, it is time for Malaysia to consider establishing an independent training institute either under the Ministry of Transport (MOT), Ministry of Human Resource (MOHR), Ministry of Science & Technology (MOSTI) or Ministry of Higher Learning Education (MOHE), where the Ministry can consolidate all the aviation experts in Malaysia from the industry and academic institutions to share their knowledge, skills, and experience under one roof.
Rather than have disintegrated training institutions, where each institution has its own KPIs to achieve and fulfil the aviation industry requirements, it would better to have an integrated institution with qualified, trained, and experienced instructors/lecturers and administrators, who are able to understand the right need for the aviation industries.
By having one integrated aviation centre of excellence, it can move help Malaysia to achieve the vision of Malaysia in becoming the Aviation Hub in Asia.
In South Korea:
We can learn from the Republic of Korea, where The Korea Transport Institute (KOTI) (https://english.koti.re.kr/) established in 1985, is the think tank for the county under the Prime Minister’s office. The mission of KOTI is to provide recommendations and alternatives for the nation’s transport policy and to create the optimal transport system through specialised research and technical innovations, while positioning itself as one of the world’s leading transport research institutions. Department of Aviation is one of the departments under KOTI, which consists of:
- Division for Aviation Policy and Airport
- Division of Air Transport and Aviation Safety
- Centre for Aviation Technology and Aeronautical Study
By having a comprehensive centre, it helps Korea in being the forefront in transport research, and technology innovations.
In the US:
Another example of an independent institution is the Transportation Research Board (TRB). It is a division of the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, which serves as an independent adviser to the President of the United States, the Congress and federal agencies on scientific and technical questions of national importance. TRB promotes innovation and progress in transportation through research in an objective and interdisciplinary setting. It stimulates research and offers research management services that promote technical excellence; provides expert advice on transportation policy and programs; and disseminates research results broadly and encourages their implementation (refer https://www.nationalacademies.org/trb/transportation-research-board).
In the UK:
Another independent institution is the Independent Transport Commission (ITC), UK. It is a research charity and think tank based in the United Kingdom, devoted to exploring issues in the fields of transport, planning and land use. It is politically neutral and has established a reputation as a nationally respected independent voice on transport and planning policy (refer https://www.theitc.org.uk/about-us/mission/)
The Commission’s charitable objectives are:
- To research the economic, social and environmental aspects of travel, transport and land use policy in the United Kingdom.
- To advance public education in matters relating to transport and land use, and in particular to make recommendations on possible solutions to current problems.
- To broadcast these findings by reports, articles and all other practical means.
Another independent institution in Asia is The Institution for Transport Policy Studies. It is an independent, non-profit foundation established under the auspices of the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport. The activities of the Institution involve comprehensive research and survey programs on transport matters. The Institution also evaluates transport policy and offers recommendations to the Japanese government and concerned parties on transport policy issues.
The overall aim of the Institution is to contribute towards the development of transport policy in order to promote the welfare and quality of life of people in Japan, it’s economy and greater harmony in international relations (refer: https://slocat.net/about-us/what-we-do/)
It can be seen that advanced and developed countries like The United States, The United Kingdom, Japan and South Korea, have established independent transportation institution to assist their countries to recommend the government and concerned parties in improving the transport policy, innovation and technology.
If Malaysia is to spearhead the Aviation sector, it is time we need to change and plan forward in establishing an independent institution where we are able to collaborate with all the experts in the aviation industry and academics, to help to develop what the nation’s needs.