Aviation Academies Adapt to the Crisis

By Enzo Sim

Published on 2021-06-28 Updated 2021-07-06

FEATURE
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THE YEAR 2020 has been described as "the worst year in aviation history".1

The impact was not only felt within the airline industry alone; aviation academies too did badly – market pessimism left aviation academies with sharp drops in new student enrolments.

With commercial flights grounded for most of last year, the University College of Aviation Malaysia (UniCAM) shifted its focus to air cargo instead, which was thriving from a boom in sales on e-commerce platforms such as Lazada and Shopee.

Flight simulator training at UniCAM. Photo: UniCAM

Graduates from UniCAM were able to secure employment with the industry's major players, including POS Aviation, MASkargo, Raya Airways, DHL and UPS. "Our vision has always been to produce graduates with the ability and innovation to face uncertainties in the ever-changing world, and we're making sure to see this promise through," says chief executive Faiz Aizat Ab Manan.

To guarantee more job opportunities for its graduates, UniCAM signed three separate Memoranda of Understanding in the first half of 2021 with Malaysia Airlines Berhad Academy, Dviation Training Centre and Cloudera Aviation Services – all notable industry players in Malaysia.

Cabin crew training at UniCAM. Photo: UniCAM

Syllabi modifications have also been made to existing programmes, evolving from hands-on approaches to a more holistic learning experience that feature elements like aviation technology, aviation safety and security, as well as transport of dangerous goods.

"All of this is in preparation for when the aviation industry rebounds after the pandemic. When UniCAM was upgraded to university college status, we took the opportunity to introduce new Bachelor, Master's and PhD programmes for our students," says Faiz.

UniCAM is also the only aviation academy in Malaysia recognised by the International Air Transport Association, the trade association of the world's airlines, as an authorised training centre.

"In spite of the current situation, we are still receiving an overwhelming number of student intakes. They know that it is just a matter of time before the aviation industry gets back on its feet," says Faiz.

ATIC students attend a briefing before their educational trip abroad. Photo: ATIC Airline Academy

But the same cannot be said for ATIC Airline Academy. This academy, located along Jalan Burma, specialises in airline and airport training programmes. "Physical classes ceased during the first MCO, causing delays in our students' academic schedules, and a loss of income for the academy," says programmes coordinator Mohd Feroz Mydin.

When classes eventually resumed online, ATIC was able to introduce a number of new courses aimed at equipping students with skills necessary for current market demands. These are Diploma in Cabin Crew and Ground Staff Training, Certificate in Aviation Management and Certificate in Human Resource Management. But disappointingly, the number of student enrolments remained low.

A mock job Interview is held at ATIC to prepare students for the actual interview. Photo: ATIC Airline Academy

Like UniCAM, ATIC augments its graduates' employability through internships and job placements at domestic and international airports. There, they learn how to handle ground operations. But these positions are presently limited, spurring ATIC to look to other industries for job offers for its graduates.

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Digital Investments Provide New Possibilities for AirAsia

AirAsia's digitalisation journey began when it first introduced online booking in 2002. In 2015, it rolled out its mobile application; now, guests could easily book and manage their flights from their phones.

This marked the start of AirAsia's strategic pivot into e-commerce, culminating in the launch of the AirAsia Super App last October, which has under its name several online retail and delivery platforms, including AirAsia Food.

With the grounding of all its 245 planes due to the Covid-19 pandemic, AirAsia's pilots and cabin crew were subsumed under the AirAsia Delivery Team, where the idea for AirAsia Food took form and was officially launched last May.

An AirAsia Food rider in George Town.

Apart from providing an alternative food delivery option, AirAsia Food has also been helping small businesses sustain themselves during this challenging period. "Venturing into the e-commerce delivery market is a natural progression for us; we already had the right technology and logistics infrastructure within our ecosystem and could easily bring merchants onto our platform, giving them access to a much wider market," says Lim Ben-Jie, head of AirAsia Super App.

"It is not so much a transition from aviation to food industry, but more of how we have not let a crisis go to waste and have utilised the opportunity to accelerate our digitalisation plans, which were already in motion even before the pandemic."

AirAsia Food is establishing itself well in Penang, the Klang Valley and Singapore (the latter since February 2021), and will be expanding to Kota Kinabalu. It is eyeing Manila, Bangkok and Jakarta next. It already employs a team of almost 100 people, and has 3,000 riders in Malaysia and Singapore.

The future remains promising. "As a long-time major player in Malaysia's aviation industry, we are preparing everything we need to take to the skies immediately when travel returns to normal," Lim concludes.

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Enzo Sim

is a Mass Communications graduate who has an unwavering passion towards international relations, history and regional affairs of Southeast Asia. His passion has brought him to different Southeast Asian capitals to explore the diverse cultural intricacies within the region.