16 Oct 2018
As a global organisation, AJW Group has a significant presence around the world.
Yet in recent times, Asia and the Asia-Pacific region has become a growth focal point for our comprehensive solutions. Looking at the Asian market specifically, our business has had people on the ground to support the full suite of AJW services for over two decades and now operates in 15 locations across Asia.
Our regional office in Singapore is rapidly expanding, welcoming new customers and employees alike, we expect to maintain this growth momentum for the foreseeable future.
As in any service business model, understanding customer pain points is key in the Asian markets, where companies typically have a good understanding of who provides reliable support in their market. Understanding what drives your customers and what hinders their operation become valuable elements of the service you deliver. At AJW, we leverage our worldwide expertise with knowledge of a region and an understanding of the local cultures. We recognise the importance of building a highly-skilled team that can develop solutions in our customers’ language at a time that suits them. To further support this continued conversation, we have gradually increased the engineering skillset of our customer-facing teams, a skillset already bolstered by the acquisition of our state-of-the-art maintenance facility in Montreal, AJW Technique, in 2012.
However, with such an emphasis placed on engineering, finding skilled technicians can be a challenge as demonstrated by one major OEM stating ‘lack of engineering staff ’ as a reason for its latest production delays. We chose to establish our Asia offices in Singapore for a very simple reason: its commitment to aviation in general and engineering in particular. Around 10 percent of the global MRO business is won by Singapore-based companies, of which there are around 100. Of those 100, it can be estimated that 90 percent of the workforce is made up of technical staff including engineers and technicians — that is a significant pool of qualified engineers.
In Singapore, it is therefore commonplace for schools to offer engineering orientated courses, which have a huge uptake amongst students who consider engineering to be very valuable career path in the locally industries. This availability of graduates in turn supports the growing aviation sector and its role in the local economy. Yet more of a focus is needed to ensure these quality and highly-skilled candidates are armed with the business know-how, to progress and take on larger roles within organisations.
We prefer to employ candidates who have good business acumen and look at challenges with a commercial mind-set, so they can thrive and grow in our customer-oriented organisation. Classically trained engineers don’t always have that outlook, so we have adopted our onboarding by adding those commercial and customer dimensions. Over time we see these engineers becoming extremely well liked and continually contacted by our customer base to provide the reliable solutions we are known for.
Apart from the entrepreneurial angle, one factor we see is still imbalanced in the Asian market, (and globally), is the diversity of the workforce. There still is a lack of women filling technical roles and who work their way up within an organisation. In a 2017 study by Airline Business, it was revealed that just 3 percent of airline chief executives are women, lower than the 7 percent at FTSE 100 companies. Of that 3 percent, only two Asia-Pacific carriers have chief execs that are female. This captures the need for the aviation industry to appeal to more women and retain them. The good news is that this is slowly changing, presenting opportunities across the industry. At AJW, we have a gender neutral recruitment policy worldwide and our Montreal MRO actively sponsors events promoting women in the aviation sector.
Finding candidates that fit the evolving needs of businesses like AJW is also a challenge for many MROs, one of the fastestgrowing sectors in Asia, on the back of the strong airline growth. In the last decade, there has also been a growing presence of OEMS in Asia and China, for example COMAC which is working on aircraft it hopes will rival those of Airbus and Boeing. Production of its C919 aircraft is not expected until 2021 at the earliest, but with well over 100 already on order, it is certain that this will increase demand for engineers yet again. This may result in engineering jobs becoming more sought after, with businesses in the region competing to ensure they provide the career progression that is needed to retain top talent.
Looking forward, AJW will continue to grow its presence in Asia-Pacific and support the growing number of aerospace businesses in the region. Central to success, and preparing for the next 20 years, is investment in current and future workforces, which means encouraging business-minded technical recruits to join this exciting industry.
Tom de Geytere, Chief Sales Office at AJW Group
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