Up in the air: Thalang Technical College launches aviation industry program

PHUKET: Thalang Technical College (TTC) has launched Thailand’s first vocational program to prepare students for a wide range of careers in the aviation industry and help support the growing need for skilled staff at nearby Phuket International Airport (HKT).

TTC Deputy Director Kochakorn Butsaraporn, who administers the school’s aviation program, told the Phuket Gazette that TTC is proud to be the first government school in Thailand to offer a study program designed specifically to meet the needs of those seeking careers in the aviation industry.

“The idea actually came from Phuket Airport, where there has been a shortage of skilled, certified personnel to work in many aspects of the airline industry,” Ms Kochakorn said. “Officials there approached us about two years ago and asked us if we would consider opening an aviation industry program to address these needs and help young people find good jobs.”

Of 45 applicants for the first class of the program, 27 were accepted. Most of the students are from Phuket and other parts of southern Thailand. The first class also has a few students from Bangkok and Ubon Ratchathani. The first term of the program is set to begin on May 18.

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There are two terms in the academic year and the tuition is 27,950 baht per term. The training staff for the program include 10 industry experts, some from Thailand’s domestic airline hub, Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok, while others are currently working at HKT.

All students will get on-the-job training at HKT.

Those involved in aircraft maintenance and repair, for example, will receive instruction from experts at KASE Aviation, which offers these services to several carriers at HKT, as well as Don Mueang and Chiang Mai airports.

Courses of study include both three-year bor wor sor [upper vocational] courses that provide certificates in educational education, and two-year por wor chor [lower vocational] programs that lead to a technical diploma for graduates.

The program is divided into three streams, the first two are administered as por wor chor programs. The first, aviation mechanics, has courses in airplane engine mechanics, electronics, aircraft construction and design. The second stream focuses on the commercial side of the industry, with courses in accounting, computing, hotels and tourism.

The only bor wor sor program currently available is aviation food and beverage, an important yet often overlooked part of the aviation business that is nevertheless mainstay fodder for stand-up comedians around the world.

Serving as a senior adviser in the TTC program is former Thai Airways International pilot Watana Thinphanga, as well his friend and colleague Suchard Raksangob, founder of Phuket AirPark in Pa Khlok.

Suchard grew up in Germany and is fluent in English and Thai. He has been tasked to teach students some basic German. The two top students will be eligible for grants from the German government to continue their studies in Germany.

Given the woeful state of English language proficiency in vocational schools across Thailand, Up In The Air asked Mr Suchard how much success he could reasonably expect teaching such a difficult language as German to Thai teens with virtually no previous exposure to it.

“The main goal will be to get them interested in it. It’s like going to China. First you must have an interest in the place, then your interest can fuel your effort to learn and eventually you can get there,” he explained.

German will not be the only requirement, however. Successful students will also need to learn a great deal of English, which is the international language of aviation.

Mr Suchard said the timing was right to open an aviation program at the school, especially given its proximity to the airport and the continuing growth of the airline industry around the globe.

“It is actually cheaper now to fly most places than get there by other forms of transport, such as bus, plane or train – not to mention the time saved,” he said. “It is an ongoing trend, so the future looks bright for those who want to get certified to enter the industry, which will continue to expand.”

Pat James, president of the Phuket Aviation Club (PAC) based at Phuket AirPark, said he thought the new aviation courses were good for commercial aviation, but noted with a hint of regret that none of the courses would involve flight school – teaching people to become pilots.

His club, which has ‘Passion for aviation’ as its slogan, has been greatly affected by a new set of restrictive rules about recreational flying that were rolled out by the Department of Civil Aviation earlier this year.

— Stephen Fein

Thai Life
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