Ground Services

Australia faces post-Covid skills shortage in aviation

Australia faces post-Covid skills shortage in aviation
One expert said the aviation industry has a "reputation problem" (Image credit: @nimdamer/Adobe Stock)

Australia’s aviation industry faces a skills shortage after losing so many workers to the coronavirus pandemic, experts have warned.

It is estimated 25,000 people left the commercial aviation sector in Australia after airlines made staffing cuts, having been one of the worst hit industries through Covid.

But since the pandemic, many of those who left the industry have retrained in other sectors and haven’t come back.

Speaking to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), Greg Bamber, a professor at Monash University in Melbourne, said: “Many people don’t want to come back.

“It’s a tough job. You’re working shifts, you’re away from home … people have found new jobs.

“[And] the aviation sector does have a reputation problem,” he added.

In September last year, the High Court of Australia ruled that Qantas illegally sacked 1,700 workers during the pandemic, instead outsourcing these jobs to keep costs down.

At the time, Michael Kaine, national secretary of the Transport Workers’ Union, described the court’s ruling as a “David and Goliath” victory for workers.

The Australian flag carrier claimed the outsourcing of its employees was a necessary financial measure.

Now, according to Elaine Wallace, an apprenticeship co-ordinator at Boeing: “Everyone wants to be a pilot but there’s a gap in the market for technicians.

“The industry has job ads going out for six to 12 months with no qualified person applying.”

But Australia’s aviation industry is not the only one to suffer from post-Covid workforce challenges.

The industry, globally, is experiencing labour shortages from ramp operators to engineers.

Steve Allen, CEO of dnata, told ARGS in February that the ground handler is still struggling to recruit in regions like the Far East and Northern Europe, as well as Australia.

He explained that today’s biggest challenge is the average length of service for airside workers being only three or four years before they move onto other jobs – and potentially new careers.

Whereas, a number of years ago it was the case that aviation workers would stay in industry throughout their working lives.

Allen said: “A lot of people left aviation [during the pandemic] – a lot of the people who had been in it for many, many years didn’t come back.

“Now we have a workforce that demands more from the company in terms of looking after them and offering them development …

“The people who stay, stay because they like their manager, they like the environment they’re working in, because they’re given nice uniforms and good tools to do the work and nice places to rest on their breaks.

“Therefore, we’re investing in what it’s like to work here – not just getting the numbers up. That’s really important.”