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Overview

This page provides high-level information on the aerospace sector.

The Aerospace sector maintains and repairs commercial and military aircraft, as well as manufacturing aircraft and aircraft components. There were 920 businesses employing 10,900 people in 2018, with 80% of businesses located in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria.

The aviation maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) sector is made up of a mix of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), independent service providers, and airlines with internal MRO capabilities. Services offered include line and heavy maintenance, repair, overhaul and modification of complete aircraft, aircraft engines and accessories, airframes and systems, aircraft systems and components, avionics and instruments.

Vocational education and training (VET) is required typically for the aerospace occupation:

  • Aircraft Maintenance Engineers.

The MRO sector is highly regulated and very reliant on highly skilled labour to provide maintenance services. Demand for MROs services is on the rise, with annualised revenue forecast to increase by 2.7% over the five years to 2022–2023 as airlines and Defence upgrade fleets.

Nationally recognised training for the aerospace industry is delivered under the MEA – Aeroskills Training Package.

For other information on manufacturing, visit the Manufacturing and related services cluster page. For information on the Aviation industry, visit the Aviation sector page.

All data sources are available at the end of the page.

Employment trends

Employment snapshot

The number of employed Aircraft Maintenance Engineers, which is the intended occupation for Aeroskills Training Package qualifications, has fluctuated between 2001 and 2021. At its peak in 2009, the employment level was approximately 17,900, before declining to 6,100 in 2020. In 2021, the employment level rose to 10,900. Further, the employment level is projected to increase by approximately 6% to 11,500.

In addition, the Australian Bureau of Statistics census data indicates that in 2016 there were approximately 7,850 people employed in Aircraft Manufacturing and Repair Services. Timeline data for this industry class is not readily available.

Training trends

Training snapshot

In 2020, the number of program enrolments in Aerospace-related qualifications decreased to less than 1,570, from approximately 1,930 in 2019. Program completions also declined in 2020 to about 430, from around 580 in 2019.

The number of enrolments in subjects delivered as part of a nationally recognised program has grown from more than 13,700 in 2016 to a peak of approximately 20,210 in 2019, before declining to 17,690 in 2020.

The number of enrolments in subjects not delivered as part of a nationally recognised program have decreased from approximately 6,430 in 2016 to 3,810 in 2020. The number enrolments declined most sharply between 2018 and 2019, declining approximately 38%.

More than two-fifths (41%) of program enrolments in Aerospace-related qualifications were at Certificate IV level in 2020 and nearly a third (32%) were at Diploma or higher level. Approximately two-thirds (66%) of program enrolments were in the Mechanical and maintenance qualification cluster. The two most common intended occupations from Aerospace-related qualifications are Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (Mechanical) and Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (Avionics).

Enterprise providers delivered more than half (52%) of Aerospace-related qualifications in 2020, followed by TAFE institutes (39%). However, there was some variation depending on the different qualifications. Approximately 69% of enrolments were government funded, with 26% funded via domestic fee for service arrangements, although this rises to 53% of training delivered in private training providers.

Queensland (35%) had the highest proportion of students enrolled in Aerospace-related qualifications in 2020, followed by New South Wales (32%). Training was mainly delivered in Queensland (44%) and New South Wales (32%).

Overall, apprenticeship and traineeship commencements in Aerospace related qualifications have declined, from approximately 550 in 2011 to 480 in 2020. They reached their lowest point (350) in 2016. The number of completions has also decreased, from more than 400 in 2011 to approximately 270 in 2020.

The intended occupations for the training were Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (Mechanical) (67%), Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (Avionics) (29%) and Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (Structures) (4%). New South Wales had the highest proportion of apprentices and trainees in training (61%) in 2020, followed by Queensland (23%).

For more data specific to your occupation, industry group or training package, visit NCVER’s Data Builder.

For more data specific to your region visit NCVER’s Atlas of Total VET.

If you are interested in extracting NCVER data to construct tables with data relevant to you, sign up for a VOCSTATS account.

Industry insights

Industry insights on skills needs

The Aerospace IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast identified specific areas requiring further skill development, namely skills in maintenance of ageing aircraft and understanding of composite materials as priority areas for skill development. In addition, the five generic workforce skills listed as being most important are:

  • Design mindset/Thinking critically/Systems thinking/Solving problems
  • Learning agility/Information literacy/Intellectual autonomy and self-management
  • Communication/Collaboration including virtual collaboration/Social intelligence
  • Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills
  • Technology.

In a survey conducted by IBSA Manufacturing in October 2017 (as reported in the 2019 Skills Forecast), industry respondents from across all states and territories identified an ageing workforce and a shortage of skilled workers as key workforce challenges for the Aerospace sector. Addressing the ageing workforce was impacted by constraints to the supply of skilled employees.

According to the 2019 Skills Forecast, industry consultations indicated businesses were reluctant to take on new young people as graduates were unable to obtain licences without significant additional inputs. However, industry was confident that alignment between the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) requirements and VET requirements would significantly improve conditions for recruitment of younger people to the industry. A project managed by the Aerospace IRC is underway (as of December 2021) to align the MEA Aeroskills Training Package with industry’s licensing requirements.

Further, the 2019 Skills Forecast indicated the lack of harmonisation of Australia’s regulations with other leading aviation countries was another issue impacting the supply of skilled workers. The National Emerging Aviation Technologies Policy Statement indicates international harmonisation in training and competency requirements will be pursued. Separately, but related to the issue to the supply of skills, the Australian Government’s Women in the Aviation Industry Initiative may help the aviation industry meet future demands for skilled workers.

As part of the 2017 survey (see above), respondents were asked to rate the level of specific workforce challenges. At the time, the automation of tasks was rated as the challenge that had the least impact on the industry. However, the 2019 Skills Forecast also reported that CASA had stated the advance in technologies, including on-board digital automation and production methods were likely to continue to challenge the aviation industry. Further, technology-based solutions and more automated maintenance were expected to increase demand for analytical skills, digital literacy, information management and the development and implementation of mobile applications.

The former Training and Skills Commission (now the South Australian Skills Commission) report Aerospace Workforce Insights states COVID-19 has increased demand for automation, including autonomous vehicles, in the aviation industry. Indeed, an area of growth is drone technology, and the Aviation Industry Reference Committee has proposed to develop a new qualification to address skills and knowledge requirements for operators. Nationally, the Australian Government’s National Emerging Aviation Technologies Policy Statement sets out how the Government will support people, businesses and industry to adopt new and emerging digital aviation technology.

Additionally, digital transformation has resulted in technological advances in air traffic control operations and control towers are rapidly becoming more digitised, which will require upskilling of air traffic controllers.

The Queensland Aerospace 10-Year Roadmap and Action Plan states that industry has raised concerns about potential shortages of skilled engineers in the aerospace manufacturing base within five to six years, however Australia has both a strong need and opportunity to help meet this expected shortfall in Australia and in the Asia-Pacific region.

Separately, the Aerospace Workforce Insights report finds data analytics, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning skills will be needed to support the growing space industry.

In late 2020, the Australian Government released its Modern Manufacturing Strategy as part of its economic recovery response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Strategy aims to help manufacturers to scale-up, become more competitive and build more resilient supply chains. Investment is targeted to drive productivity and create jobs through six national manufacturing priority sectors, which reflect Australia’s competitive advantage.

In response to the Strategy, increasing changes in workforce skills requirements and ongoing disruption caused by COVID-19, the IBSA Group conducted an extensive series of research and consultation activities culminating in Scaling up: developing modern manufacturing through a skilled workforce. This report draws together insights (based around six main themes) from industry leaders on the challenges facing the manufacturing sector and proposes skills-focused responses to support the development of a highly skilled workforce to underpin the future of manufacturing in Australia. Further, it identifies the Aerospace industry supply chain industry skill areas and their relation to the six Modern Manufacturing Strategy priority sectors, namely the Resources Technology and Critical Minerals Processing and Defence. See also the Space: National Manufacturing Priority Road Map.

COVID-19 impact

COVID-19 has caused significant disruption to the aviation and many large aerospace manufacturers, according to the Aerospace Workforce Insights report, and recovery will take time. To help manage impacts of the COVID-19 downturn and support recovery, the Australian Government has released The Future of Australia’s Aviation Sector: Issues Paper to seek industry and community views which will inform the Government’s Five-Year Plan for Aviation.

Links and resources

Below is a list of industry relevant research, organisations and associations. Hyperlinks have been included where available.

IRC and skills forecasts

Aerospace IRC

 

Relevant research

2017 Aerospace Industry Survey Analysis – IBSA Manufacturing

Aerospace Workforce Insights – Training and Skills Commission (South Australia)

Alignment of VET Qualifications with Aerospace Licensing Regulations – IBSA Group

National Emerging Aviation Technologies Policy Statement – Australian Government Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications

Queensland Aerospace 10-year Roadmap and Action Plan – Queensland Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning

Make it Happen: The Australian Government’s Modern Manufacturing Strategy – Australian Government Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources

Scaling Up: Developing Modern Manufacturing Through a Skilled Workforce – IBSA Group

Space National Manufacturing Priority Road Map – Australian Government Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources

The Future of Australia’s Aviation Sector - Australian Government Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications

Women in the Aviation Industry - Australian Government Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications

 

Industry associations and advisory bodies

Australian Advanced Manufacturing Council

Australian Helicopter Industry Association

Australian Manufacturing Technology Institute Limited (AMTIL)

Aviation/Aerospace Australia

Aviation Maintenance Repair and Overhaul Business Association (AMROBA)

Civil Aviation Safety Authority

Regional Aviation Association of Australia

 

Employee associations

Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU)

Australian Workers’ Union

Communication Electrical & Plumbing Union – Electrical Trades Division

 

Data sources and notes

Department of Employment 2021, Employment Projections, available from the Labour Market Information Portal

  • by ANZSCO, selected occupations, employment projections to May 2025
    • 3231 Aircraft Maintenance Engineers.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2021, 6291.0.55.001 - EQ08 - Employed persons by Occupation unit group of main job (ANZSCO), Sex, State and Territory, August 1986 onwards, viewed 1 August 2021, https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/labour/employment-and-unemployment/labour-force-australia-detailed/may-2021

  • Employed total by ANZSC0 4-digit 3231 Aircraft Maintenance Engineers, 2001 to 2021, May Quarter.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2017, 2016 Census – employment, income and unpaid work, TableBuilder. Findings based on use of ABS TableBuilder data.

  • Employment level ANZSC0 4 digit 3231 Aircraft Maintenance Engineers.

Training data has been extracted from the National VET Provider Collection, Total VET students and courses from the following training package or qualifications:

MEA Aeroskills Training Package:

  • Avionics
    • MEA40607 - Certificate IV in Aeroskills (Avionics)
    • MEA40610 - Certificate IV in Aeroskills (Avionics)
    • MEA40611 - Certificate IV in Aeroskills (Avionics)
    • MEA40615 - Certificate IV in Aeroskills (Avionics)
    • MEA40618 - Certificate IV in Aeroskills (Avionics)
    • MEA41011 - Certificate IV in Aeroskills (Mechatronics)
    • MEA41015 - Certificate IV in Aeroskills (Mechatronics)
    • MEA50110 - Diploma of Aeroskills (Avionics)
    • MEA50111 - Diploma of Aeroskills (Avionics)
    • MEA50115 - Diploma of Aeroskills (Avionics)
    • MEA50118 - Diploma of Aeroskills (Avionics)
    • MEA50311 - Diploma of Aviation Maintenance Management (Avionics)
    • MEA50315 - Diploma of Aviation Maintenance Management (Avionics)
    • MEA50318 - Diploma of Aviation Maintenance Management (Avionics)
    • MEA60111 - Advanced Diploma of Aviation Maintenance Management (Avionics)
    • MEA60115 - Advanced Diploma of Aviation Maintenance Management (Avionics)
    • MEA60118 - Advanced Diploma of Aviation Maintenance Management (Avionics)
  • Mechanical and maintenance
    • MEA20511 - Certificate II in Aircraft Line Maintenance
    • MEA20515 - Certificate II in Aircraft Line Maintenance
    • MEA20518 - Certificate II in Aircraft Line Maintenance
    • MEA40707 - Certificate IV in Aeroskills (Mechanical)
    • MEA40710 - Certificate IV in Aeroskills (Mechanical)
    • MEA40711 - Certificate IV in Aeroskills (Mechanical)
    • MEA40715 - Certificate IV in Aeroskills (Mechanical)
    • MEA40718 - Certificate IV in Aeroskills (Mechanical)
    • MEA41018 - Certificate IV in Aeroskills (Mechatronics)
    • MEA50210 - Diploma of Aeroskills (Mechanical)
    • MEA50211 - Diploma of Aeroskills (Mechanical)
    • MEA50215 - Diploma of Aeroskills (Mechanical)
    • MEA50218 - Diploma of Aeroskills (Mechanical)
    • MEA50219 – Diploma of Aeroskills (Mechanical)
    • MEA50411 - Diploma of Aviation Maintenance Management (Mechanical)
    • MEA50415 - Diploma of Aviation Maintenance Management (Mechanical)
    • MEA50418 - Diploma of Aviation Maintenance Management (Mechanical)
    • MEA60211 - Advanced Diploma of Aviation Maintenance Management (Mechanical)
    • MEA60215 - Advanced Diploma of Aviation Maintenance Management (Mechanical)
    • MEA60218 - Advanced Diploma of Aviation Maintenance Management (Mechanical)
  • Other aeroskills qualifications
    • MEA20407 - Certificate II in Aeroskills
    • MEA20411 - Certificate II in Aeroskills
    • MEA20415 - Certificate II in Aeroskills
    • MEA20418 - Certificate II in Aeroskills
    • MEA20618 - Certificate II in Aircraft Surface Finishing
    • MEA30111 - Certificate III in Aircraft Surface Finishing
    • MEA30115 - Certificate III in Aircraft Surface Finishing
    • MEA30118 - Certificate III in Aircraft Surface Finishing
    • MEA30311 - Certificate III in Aircraft Life Support and Furnishing
    • MEA30315 - Certificate III in Aircraft Life Support and Furnishing
    • MEA30318 - Certificate III in Aircraft Life Support and Furnishing
    • MEA40810 - Certificate IV in Aeroskills (Structures)
    • MEA40911 - Certificate IV in Aircraft Surface Finishing
    • MEA40915 - Certificate IV in Aircraft Surface Finishing
    • MEA40918 - Certificate IV in Aircraft Surface Finishing
    • MEA41118 - Certificate IV in Aeronautical Life Support Equipment
    • MEA41211 - Certificate IV in Aeroskills (Armament)
    • MEA41213 - Certificate IV in Aeroskills (Armament)
    • MEA41218 - Certificate IV in Aeroskills (Armament)
    • MEA41311 - Certificate IV in Aeroskills (Structures)
    • MEA41315 - Certificate IV in Aeroskills (Structures)
    • MEA41318 - Certificate IV in Aeroskills (Structures).

This includes superseded qualifications and training packages.

Data covers a range of selected student and training characteristics in the following categories and years:

  • 2016 to 2020 program enrolments
  • 2016 to 2020 subject enrolments
  • 2016 to 2020 program completions.

Total VET students and courses data is reported for the calendar year. Program enrolments are the qualifications, courses and skill sets in which students are enrolled in a given period. For students enrolled in multiple programs, all programs are counted. Program completion indicates that a student has completed a structured and integrated program of education or training. Location data uses student residence. Subject enrolment is registration of a student at a training delivery location for the purpose of undertaking a module, unit of competency or subject. For more information on the terms and definitions, please refer to the Total VET students and courses: terms and definitions document.

Low counts (less than 5) are not reported to protect client confidentiality.

Percentages are rounded to one decimal place. This can lead to situations where the total sum of proportions in a chart may not add up to exactly 100%.

MEA Aeroskills Training Package apprentice and trainee data has been extracted from the National Apprentice and Trainee Collection, including:

  • 2011 to 2020 commencements
  • 2011 to 2020 completions
  • apprentices and trainees in-training October to December 2020 collection, by qualification and state and territory of data submitter.
Updated: 21 Jan 2022
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