By: Victor Moolman

Creamer Media’s Engineering News

Date:  01 September 2017

This year, the Young Professionals Forum, initiated by the Aerospace Industry Support Initiative (AISI), will be held alongside the International Forum for Aviation Research’s open session that will take place on October 24.

The forum is a networking session for young professionals aged between 18 and 35 who are working in the aerospace industry to share ideas and to grow their professional networks.
AISI data analyst Busisiwe Nkonki explains that the forum is usually held before the Aeronautical Society of South Africa’s (AeSSA’s) annual conference – which will take place from October 24 to 26 at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research International Convention Centre. However, this year, the forum will be held in conjunction with the open session of the conference.

“We have an experienced keynote speaker who will address us and facilitate a two-hour workshop . . . after which we will discuss a specific topic. We will discuss this topic among ourselves and then assess each others and discuss the projects on which we are working. The forum is suitable for anyone who is working, studying or interested in the aeronautics industry of South Africa,” she highlights.

Moreover, at this year’s AeSSA conference, which the AISI uses to showcase the impact of its industry projects, will be followed by an awards ceremony to honour aerospace companies.

AeSSA president Dr Glen Snedden says among the recipients is Cape Town-based aerospace company S-Plane for the work it has done in the field of drones, helicopters and automation systems.

“S-Plane started with rotary and unmanned aerial vehicles, drones and control work for the South African Navy. Now, S-Plane is taking it to the next level, as it has moved out of Stellenbosch University and has become a private company,” he points out.

Snedden mentions that the entire conference will be an opportunity for international heads of aviation to come together and share ideas. The conference will also present an opportunity for the South African aerospace companies to showcase their new technologies that are being developed locally.

The AISI was established by the Department of Trade and Industry in 2006 to help develop the aerospace industry in South Africa. Nkonki explains that the AISI supports industry to improve its competitiveness through technology-based supplier development.

“We support companies and the technologies that the companies are creating. These companies then attract highly skilled engineers and, according to our projections, we are developing more scarce skills in the industry,” she states.

Further, the projects that the AISI supports enable companies to enhance and create advanced technology capabilities that enable improved competitiveness and generate high-technology skills.
Owing to the high-tech development required in these projects, there tends to be a spillover of scarce skills that improves the supply of engineers in the industry. The technology enhancement programme ensures that the original-equipment manufacturers (OEMs) transfer skills, technologies and capabilities to the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMMEs) to enable and facilitate their improvement.

She explains that, for the aerospace industry in South Africa to grow further, the country needs to support smaller companies.
“SMMEs receiving support from the AISI through technology-based supplier development are enabled to integrate into supply chains through local OEMs and, in doing so, enter global supply chains. The AISI aims to broaden the industry base participating in the aerospace industry,” Nkonki concludes.

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