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Speech by 2M Tan See Leng at Aerospace Day 2021

Speech by 2M Tan See Leng at Aerospace Day 2021

1 Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my pleasure to welcome you to the JTC Aerospace Day 2021. I am heartened by the strong support and turnout today.

2 Over the years, Singapore has established ourselves as a key node in the global aerospace value chain. Singapore is now Asia’s leading aerospace Maintenance, Repair and Operations (MRO) hub, contributing to 10 percent of global MRO output. JTC’s Seletar Aerospace Park is the centrepiece of our efforts, and home to a vibrant cluster of over 60 aerospace MNCs and local enterprises.

3 The past two years have been difficult for many businesses, in particular our aerospace industry that predominantly supports commercial aviation. Travel bans and tightened borders worldwide have grounded planes and drastically reduced demand for commercial air travel.

Our aerospace industry remains resilient and is pivoting towards new growth areas 

4 Despite these challenges, Singapore has continued to maintain a strong base of aerospace activities, and our aerospace companies have been exploring new avenues of growth.

5 Homegrown company ST Engineering has managed to turn crisis into opportunity by repurposing underutilised passenger aircraft for air cargo. In 2020, they completed the world’s first A321 converted freighter, which offers 55% more capacity than its closest competitor. As the demand for freighters remains strong, ST Engineering is ramping up its conversion capacity, and will be converting more than 55 aircraft next year.

6 Some of our local aerospace SMEs have also diversified their customer markets by leveraging existing technical capabilities. Aerospace services firm ECK is expanding their reach to serve customers in the electronics and energy industry, while Wah Son Engineering is exploring opportunities in the defence and semiconductor sectors.

7 Efforts to foster partnerships between MNCs, LLEs, and SMEs are also bearing fruit. For example, Rolls-Royce, the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), Zincode Technologies, and Sysmatic Global jointly developed a new technology to capture detailed images of jet engine fan blades for advanced automated inspection and it is currently undergoing pre-production testing. This was facilitated by the Smart Manufacturing Joint Lab set up by A*STAR, Rolls-Royce, and Singapore Aero Engine Services.

Long-term prospects for the industry remain positive

8 As we emerge from the pandemic, the aviation industry will rebound. The longer term outlook for the aerospace sector is positive, and we have identified three key opportunities for growth.

9 First is the area of digital services. With more data being collected from aircraft, aerospace companies hope to harness the power of big data to monitor aircraft health, predict maintenance schedules, optimise fuel consumption, and minimise on-ground delays. This will help airlines and passengers save time and costs. Despite the pandemic, Airbus stayed ahead of the curve and inaugurated their Singapore Campus at the Seletar Aerospace Park last November. It serves as the company's Asia-Pacific regional hub and houses a team dedicated to their digital solutions platform, Skywise. Airbus will continue to explore collaborations with partners in the region to improve fleet performance.

10 The second area is autonomy. Aerospace original equipment manufacturers can play a critical role in developing autonomous technologies and advanced communications. Most ongoing efforts are concentrated in developing full-fledged autonomy for long-haul commercial flights. If successful, airlines will benefit through reduced operating costs, enhanced pilot decision-making, and safety. I am pleased that we have already made inroads in this area. Last year, our local start-up, H3 Dynamics, partnered with Thales to test an autonomous drone flight monitoring system in Singapore’s urban environment.

11 Third is sustainability. This is a growing interest of the aerospace industry as companies work towards the strategy of “build back better” for a more sustainable future. Aerospace companies are exploring sustainable solutions like electric propulsion, sustainable aviation fuels, and hydrogen-powered aircraft. One example is NTU and Rolls-Royce’s partnership to develop electrification technologies to enable hybrid-electric aircraft. This will accelerate the adoption of alternative energy systems in the aerospace industry. 

We are invigorating the sector’s talent pipeline to capture new growth opportunities

12   To seize these opportunities, our companies are collectively looking to fill about 1000 positions over the next two years. 

13 They have a strong talent pool here to tap on. Our highly skilled and industry-ready talent are well-trained in functions across the value chain. This includes certified technicians and engineers, as well as over 2000 graduates from aerospace courses across ITE, polytechnics, and universities every year. There is also the “Career Conversion Programme for Aerospace Officer and Aerospace Executive” that mid-careerists can tap on to undergo skills conversion.

14 This is where initiatives such as JTC’s Aerospace Day help support job seekers in this sector. One of the highlights of Aerospace Day is the tours of company facilities, which we have made sure to continue this year. We hope that this will showcase the exciting job opportunities available in the aerospace sector, and allow our budding talents to better understand the exciting work that goes on in this industry. 

15 For instance, US aerospace giant Pratt & Whitney recently embarked on a recruitment drive to hire 250 skilled workers for its MRO operations in Singapore. Their cutting-edge aerospace technology capabilities will keep Singapore and our workers on the forefront of the global MRO industry. Business jet manufacturer Bombardier is also hoping to fill over 90 positions as they quadruple their existing footprint in Singapore, while GE Aviation is looking to fill 200 positions this year.

16 Some of our local players are also looking to hire talents. ST Engineering is aiming to hire up to 200 aviation professionals by next year, while Singapore Aero Engine Services is hiring for 170 vacancies to support growth of its operations as a lead MRO facility. We hope you will use today’s event to learn more about these exciting job opportunities.

Conclusion

17 While the pandemic has challenged us in many ways, it has also created opportunities. The government is committed to bringing stakeholders together to develop a robust talent pipeline to capture growth opportunities even during this challenging time. I am heartened that JTC, the Association of Aerospace Industries Singapore, as well as institutes of higher learning, and NTUC’s e2i, continued to organise Aerospace Day despite the current COVID-19 situation. These events are key in demonstrating our keen interest to grow the aerospace industry.

18 To the students and mid-career professionals here with us, I hope your experience today will spark curiosity about the myriad of possibilities in the aerospace industry and encourage you to explore an aerospace career in Singapore.

19 Thank you.


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