SINGAPORE, May 27 — Despite arriving at the OneAviation Careers event at around 9.30am today, about half an hour before the doors to the job fair at the Suntec City Convention Centre swung open, there was already a crowd of jobseekers standing ahead of Mr Suzaki Abdullah waiting to enter.

“I expected that there would be a lot of people, but not this many,” said the 49-year-old who currently works in the security sector.

When TODAY arrived at around 10.30am, there was a steady stream of visitors entering the exhibition hall to visit more than 20 booths set up by firms such as aerospace companies Pratt & Whitney, Rolls-Royce and the Thales Group.

Aside from these engineering companies, visitors to the fair, which started on Friday morning and ends on Saturday, would be able to find out what jobs are available with airline carriers such as Singapore Airlines, Scoot and Jetstar.

Ms Cynthia Tan, Pratt & Whitney’s talent acquisition manager, said that the attendance was so overwhelming that her booth had run out of printed job descriptions to hand out to visitors.

According to the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), more than 6,000 visitors attended the first day of the fair.

CAAS had organised the event together with the National Trades Union Congress, the Employment and Employability Institute, and Workforce Singapore.

Senior Minister of State for Transport Chee Hong Tat, who visited the fair in the afternoon, said employers at the event were hoping to fill close to 2,000 vacancies.

The roles range from careers in airport retail, services and operations to aviation policy, aerospace engineering and information technology, said Mr Chee during a keynote address at the event.

“With these recruitment efforts, we anticipate that the sector could restore close to 85 to 90 per cent of its pre-Covid workforce by the end of the year.” While Mr Chee did not give details on how many vacancies there are in the aviation sector in total, Changi Airport Group said this month that it had more than 6,600 jobs available at Changi Airport.

Mr Suzaki said he is hoping to snag one of those roles in airport operations as he wants a “change in environment” after working in security for over two decades.

Similarly hoping to make a career switch was Ms Stephanie Goh, who currently works in the construction sector.

The 30-year-old said she has always wanted to join the aviation sector ever since she was an architecture student studying airport design.

Aside from the career switchers, there were also those who left the aviation sector due to the pandemic but are now returning.

Mr Oscar Tsang, a former air cargo handler who worked in Hong Kong for more than six years, said the crowds at the career fair signal a return to normalcy for the aviation sector.

However, the 33-year-old added that he was anxious about his prospects as he has been without a job since he returned to Singapore last year to be with his family.

“It looks like the competition is going to be fierce. I hope I have a chance,” said Mr Tsang, who showed up at the fair in a suit and hopes to get an executive role.

There were also former pilots such as a 36-year-old man who wanted to be known only as Shaun.

He was previously based in Hong Kong as well, but was furloughed at the end of 2020 and spent his time doing unrelated work in the city until he returned to Singapore two weeks ago.

Despite having lost his job previously due to the pandemic, he found it hard to leave the aviation sector, which he found attractive due to the diversity of its people.

“Another pandemic will happen again... But people in this industry are prepared to take that risk,” he said.

- The competition for talent - Exhibitors TODAY spoke with were generally surprised with Friday’s turnout, but were nonetheless glad to see the strong response as they need to replenish their numbers.

However, Pratt & Whitney’s Ms Tan said that it will be a challenge to get workers because of the fierce competition not just within the industry, but from other sectors that are similarly looking for technicians.

To make it easier for people to apply for a job, she said the company has been holding monthly walk-in interviews to hire blue collar workers.

However, not everyone who showed up at the fair had the right skills, said Ms Chris Chiu, the principal human resource executive for the Singapore Aero Engines Services company, which provides maintenance, repair and overhaul of Rolls-Royce Trent engines.

Ms Chiu, who is hoping to find about 200 trainees and technicians, estimates that only about 30 to 40 per cent of jobseekers who approached them on Friday were the right fit, and added that it was hard to find Singaporean technicians since few are willing to take on such jobs.

Agreeing that it is tough to find the right worker, Mr Kevin Chow, the country director and chief executive officer of Thales in Singapore, said the aerospace company is open to taking on people from different sectors.

“People who are hungry and motivated to get exposure to this industry are a big plus for us. As long as they have some core skill sets we can leverage, we’re quite happy to take a chance on them and train them up.” For instance, he said they would be willing to take on people from the gaming industry, if they have experience in cloud technology.

Other firms such as Dnata Singapore, which offers a range of services such as ground and cargo handling to inflight catering and travel services, said they are offering subsidised flight tickets — up to 80 per cent — not just to staff, but their family members as well.

Dnata’s human resources manager Michelle Woon said her firm has been conducting regular outreach programmes at tertiary institutions to raise awareness about the jobs on offer.

Mr Jimmy Ler, the honorary treasurer of SAAA Singapore — formerly known as the Singapore Aircargo Agents Association — said about 70 per cent of jobs in the freight forwarding industry are unfilled.

Training, he said, is provided for, which makes it the “easiest way” for those who lack the necessary skills to step foot into the aviation sector.

“I encourage people to come into this industry as it is booming. Even during Covid... the business of aviation cargo kept going,” said Mr Ler.

“It may not be sexy, but there is potential because Singapore is in the right location for the world to do its trans-shipment.” — TODAY