While COVID-19 has been a watershed moment for the aviation industry, the loss of expertise as older aviation engineers move on is also a concern. Filling the gap is a new generation of aviation trainees and apprentices, like Liam Doherty, who are taking advantage of the increasing career opportunities in aviation engineering.
“The level 6 diploma gives me the opportunity to travel abroad and convert it into overseas licenses and qualifications. Ultimately, that's one of the reasons I got into aviation, to use it to travel, see the world—it just opens up my career opportunities.”
Liam began his career by completing the Level 4 Certificate in Aeronautical Engineering at the NMIT Woodbourne RNZAF base campus in Marlborough which he says really set him up for a career in aviation.
“I knew I wanted to work in fixed-wing aircraft, particularly in the commercial sector of aviation. I managed to get a scholarship and an internship with regional maintenance in Nelson, and then I got a full-time job with them once I had finished the course.”
Due to COVID-19 regional maintenance in Nelson was shut down but Liam was fortunate to be able to continue his apprenticeship in Christchurch, working for Air New Zealand on heavy maintenance on A320s and ACR C130s and Q300s. He is also continuing his diploma online and preparing for his New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority (NZCAA) exams—a compulsory requirement for licensing. He says he is fortunate to be able to integrate the theory with his daily work experience.
“At the moment as part of my diploma studies I am doing Turbine Engines, Aircraft Materials and Electrical Fundamentals. Having more knowledge and experience, even if I don't necessarily use it, opens more pathways and more doors—you're not limited to one corner of the industry.”
“You know if something was to close down or you were to lose your job at one company, with the experience and the knowledge you have, you're always employable somewhere else.”
NMIT is New Zealand's first approved NZCAA Part 147 Certified Maintenance Training Organisation.
Aviation Engineering tutor, Aaron Lyster says the key to training is not only providing the industry with qualified, skilled graduates but with graduates who have the right attributes to fit in to the aviation industry.
Although it was expected COVID-19 would put aviation engineering positions at risk Aaron says the aviation sector isn't just tourism, and many companies support other industries, such as agriculture. He says it appears that general aviation has not been that affected.
“I am surprised when I travel around and see how many of our graduates are working in the industry as chief engineers, or they've got their own companies. There's definitely plenty of jobs in the industry now and it’s going to be worse in a few years’ time.”
For more information on aviation engineering training see nmit.ac.nz/aviation