Following one’s dream can sometimes seem risky, but there is no shortage of success stories to prove the value in pursuing one’s passion.
Peter Huijbers is one of them.
His love for airplanes was present since he was five.
“We lived very close to the Eindhoven Airport. I would stand next to the airport fence for hours and watched airplanes take off, wondering where they would go to,” recalls Huijbers, who was born in Holland.
He followed his heart and developed a career in aviation. Today Huijbers is chief executive of CALS Aviation Group, a leading global aircraft leasing business in Hong Kong.
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“The whole aviation market is growing very strong,” he says. “There are 20,000 airplanes operated by airlines, and 40 per cent are leased. In the next 20 years, the global fleet will grow to 42,000 airplanes, meaning a demand of around 17,000 planes for leasing.”
This is exciting time for Huijbers who is busy with training the necessary talent and meeting clients to get a slice of the growing global aviation leasing market.
Huijbers has succeeded in his aviation career with flying colours, but he is not the only one. Triggered by the growing demand for travel and increased trade from globalisation, the booming aviation market around the world has provided vast opportunities to aviation veterans and aspirants to thrive.
Aviation Industry Takes Off in Hong Kong
Highly monopolised by the western world, the aviation sector Hong Kong has rapidly developed into an important asset of the city.
“The aviation industry is important and thriving in Hong Kong, with the city being a regional aviation hub,” says Donna Kong, vice president of the human resources department at DHL Express Hong Kong.
A combination of factors is contributing to the rapid growth of the aviation sector in Hong Kong, including the global trend of online shopping, the booming infrastructure development in Hong Kong, Macau and neighboring cities, and the strong air connectivity brought by the Hong Kong International Airport, Kong says.
There is also the government’s persistent support to the logistics industry, including the implementation of the Three-Runway System and enhancement of the airport infrastructure.
“The opening of the Hong Kong-Macau-Zhuhai Bridge, along with the One Belt One Road Initiative, will also boost the trade flow and benefit the overall air cargo industry,” Kong says, adding that the volume of cargo handled by DHL is increasing yearly.
Another boost came in June 2017 when the government halved the profit tax rate for aircraft leasing companies to 8.25 percent. The move was devised to help Hong Kong-based aviation leasing companies compete with traditional aircraft leasing centres like Ireland and Singapore as part of the government’s ambition to build Hong Kong as a global aviation leasing and financing center.
“Before there were 2 to 3 companies in the field of aviation leasing and financing in Hong Kong, now there are a lot - about 10 to 12 companies - since the tax reduction became effective,” says Huijbers.
Growing demand for aviation talent
The fast expanding aviation industry in Hong Kong has become one of the brightest career platforms, with a strong demand for newcomers.
“We expect great talent demand in the logistics industry, especially frontline staff, such as operations agents, couriers, customer service roles, telesales and network support agents, in the coming years,” Kong says.
To meet the increasing demand for aviation talent, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University launched a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) programme in in Aviation Management and Logistics (AML) last year. As Hong Kong’s only government-funded bachelor’s degree in aviation management, the two-year programme aims to equip those who wish to develop in this field with the specialised skills and knowledge required for a career in the aviation industry.
The industry provides graduates with a versatile career and a wide selection of jobs, including piloting, engineering, aircraft manufacturing and maintenance. In addition, airport operations, air traffic control, air cargo, and aircraft finance and leasing, are also on the list of career options.
Top Tips for Graduates
To succeed in the aviation career, there are certain attributes that candidates should possess to attract employers.
“As a service industry, we see attitude as a top priority – not only the attitude to get the work done, but the willingness to go the extra mile to deliver excellence,” Kong says.
“Companies want to make sure you have passion for the job,” Huijbers adds. “You should also think of ways to make a difference to the company you work for.”
Having worked in the aviation sector for 33 years, Huijbers still holds the same passion he has for his job from day one, and he explains why,
“Aviation is opening horizons for people and making them go further, learning different cultures and meeting people,” he says.
Learn more about the programmes on offer at www.polyu.edu.hk/lms