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Friendly skies for the tech-savvy

By Kristie Kellahan
MyCareer

The next generation of aviation engineers are earning their wings, writes Kristie Kellahan.

With more domestic and international aircraft than ever before ferrying passengers around the world, job opportunities for engineers in the aviation sector are booming.

One Australian learning institute - the AviSkills Aviation Skills Academy - was established in 2002 in Tamworth as a response to the global shortage of skilled and qualified aviation engineering staff.

Partnering with TAFE NSW New England Institute and QantasLink, the academy trains aeronautical engineers of the future in a multimillion-dollar facility at Tamworth Airport. Similar courses are offered in Victoria by private registered training organisation Kangan Institute.

Three types of aircraft maintenance engineering courses are offered at the academy: aircraft structures, aircraft avionics and aircraft mechanical.

The head teacher at the academy, Russ Hodgkins, manages the staff, students and courses. As teacher of the aircraft structures subject he also personally instructs students in hands-on trade training. He says the academy liaises with industry partners and employers to identify the requirements and skills they seek from graduates. Together they tailor strategies for developing and delivering these skills.

"An advantage with the courses we offer is that we work closely with industry and identify their requirements; this ensures that our students are more employable on the floor and that they have currency in the aircraft maintenance engineering environment," Hodgkins says.

He says the academy's courses are important to the aviation industry because they are hands-on, trade-based courses. They are offered face-to-face full time, in blocks or even at the workplace. "This gives employers and partners some options on how they have their candidates trained," Hodgkins says.

High standards of training and performance are a source of pride for the academy's teaching staff. Although graduation from the courses is competency-based, the academy's students are required by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority to achieve a minimum percentage pass of 75 per cent.

An aeroskills mechanical teacher at AviSkills, Peter Jones, is employed by TAFE NSW to deliver mechanical modules.

Jones says in a typical week his students will be introduced to a section of the aircraft to be studied. Through a combination of theory and practical instruction, the students will acquire the knowledge they need for formal assessment.

Jones says skilled aviation personnel will be in short supply in the future, due to a combination of natural attrition and the growing needs of an industry that is expanding. There is a great need to produce qualified aircraft technicians, he says.

 

Published: 23 February 2013


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