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CATC Ready to Support Thailand on Becoming Asean MRO Hub

Dr.Watana Manon

Dr.Watana Manon (ワッタナー・マーノン)
Vice President of Academic Affairs,
Civil Aviation Training Center (CATC)

CATC Ready to Support Thailand on Becoming Asean MRO Hub

As the Asean Economic Community (AEC) is just around the corner, Thailand has to prepare and be ready for the change. One of the industries that is going to get a direct hit from this is the aviation industry, and Thailand must prepare – especially in terms of workforce. Asia Pacific Plant Management was honored to have an exclusive interview with Dr. Watana Manon, vice president of Academic Affairs, Civil Aviation Training Center (CATC). During the interview, we discussed the current situation and trend in Thailand’s aviation industry, the upcoming AEC and the role of CATC in the industry.


Thai Aviation Industry at Present

Dr. Watana told us that Thai aerospace industry can be divided into two groups: original equipment manufacturing (OEM), and maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO). Aviation OEM is not a big industry in Thailand because most of the manufacturers are still focusing more on the automotive industry. The technology in making aviation parts also needs to be very precise and high quality. Right now, the situation is based on the strength of the government policy to determine whether they are going to choose this industry as a target or not.

The situation is different for MRO, where Thailand seems to have a more promising future. Dr. Watana suggested that in the future this industry will keep growing and growing due to the establishment of an MRO center of big airline companies, such as Thai Airways and Bangkok Airways. Maintenance is what Thailand is good at. There was a call from the previous government to set MRO for the aviation industry as one of the country’s target industries, but manufacturers and other supporting organizations such as CATC need a solid plan in order to set their move forward.

Dr. Watana also mentioned the current state of the workforce in the aviation industry, which is quite similar to what is happening with automotive industry. There are not enough skilled laborers. In addition to CATC, there are around 10 universities and institutes that provide courses related to the aviation industry, but there are only around 250 technical graduates each year, while the need is much higher. Thai Airways, for instance, hires 4,500 workers in aircraft maintenance.

Skilled Workforce: Major Issue for AEC

As a part of the agreement in AEC, the Open Sky policy will be fully implemented throughout the member countries. This will allow flights between each country to fly around freely, increasing regional and domestic connectivity. Dr. Watana believes that Thailand will benefit the most since the country sits at the heart of the region. Also, when compared to other Asean countries, Thailand’s infrastructures are enough to support the region’s aviation industry. He stressed this point, saying, “The infrastructures are there. CATC and other organizations are there. All that is left is a firm plan or a sign from the government before we move forward.”

The free movement of skilled laborers under the AEC should not be forgotten. Dr. Watana suggests that Thai workers’ biggest weakness is language. While workers from Malaysia or Singapore can speak English just fine, Thais struggle for it. It is not that they lack knowledge, but it is just that they cannot communicate, which is an important downside that may be more important after AEC begins. Skilled workers from other Asean countries are sure to come, and with good English they can go everywhere in the region while Thai workers can only be in Thailand. Some might lose their jobs. Language has become one of the highlight topics that CATC and other universities agree to strengthen for their students.

Although Thailand has strong knowledge and experience in automotive parts manufacturing, the situation is not the same for the aviation OEM industry. Unlike automotive parts, part manufacturing in aviation industry need precision, accuracy and specific machinery.Thailand can shift to this area but it may not happen soon.MRO is what Thailand should head toward. Dr. Watana added that after the AEC, more flights are going to use Thailand as their stop, which will stimulate the growth of MRO industry.

Thailand National Aerospace Roadmap

The roadmap is needed as a guideline on what, where, when and how Thai industry needs to do to achieve the title as the MRO hub of the region. The private and educational sectors will support and act according to the roadmap in the same way. The roadmap will act as instructions toward the goal. It will also announce the country’s intention to the world.

CATC in Thai Aviation Industry

As a state enterprise, CATC is committed to producing and training a sufficient number of highly skilled personnel to meet the needs of the regional and national aviation industries. Dr. Watana said that apart from the diploma, undergraduate, post graduate and masters degrees that cover all essential parts in aviation industry, CATC also provides an international standard training program in many related areas. All programs are certified by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which means that all students who graduate from CATC pass the international standard and are able to work abroad. CATC will continue to support Thailand’s goal to become the region’s aviation hub with high quality workforce.

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