Women in aircraft maintenance engineering? The idea would have raised a fair bit of eyebrows many decades ago. For centuries, remarkable women, to name a few; Amelia Earhart, Marie Curie, Harriet Quimby, and the list of trailblazers goes on, have changed the cause of history. What’s more, the Malaysian Education System which provides equal education opportunities to all its citizens have encouraged more women venturing into the field of aviation and engineering in the last few decades.
At Nilai University, these six young women from the Aircraft Maintenance Engineering programme courageously pursued the course that would most likely lead to a male-dominated profession; aircraft maintenance engineers.
Making a choice
Jamie Goh Yi Lian, a feisty second-year student in the diploma level of the Aircraft Maintenance Engineering, reckons that she preferred a technically challenging job and can’t see herself in a desk-bound post. “I have a knack of solving technical problems, so this may be the best future career path for me.” While her course-mates Rinisha Nehru Thiaku and Elma Emily Young have always wanted to pursue a degree in engineering, however, both were respectively inspired by their uncles to enrol in the Aircraft Maintenance Engineering programme.
Trailing their curiosity and taking a leap of faith
Ee Ching caught the travel bug since the age of 10. She dreamt of a career that would allow her to travel extensively. At a young age, she was curious about the aircraft systems, “How does an aircraft take off, land safely and stabilises on air?” said inquisitively. Kow Yoong Huei, a first-year student in the Diploma of Aircraft Maintenance Engineering, shared the same curiosity. On the other hand, Wan Kah Mun a second-year student heard about Nilai University’s established reputation in providing this course, “I visited Nilai University to find out further about this course, and it seemed interesting, so I enrolled.”
It does not sway the Aircraft Maintenance Engineering programmes offered by Nilai University to single-gender preference. With equal merits, students from either a science and non-science stream may enrol in these programs. SPM students should meet the following entry requirements:
- Three Credits in English, Mathematics, and Physics or Science
- Passed Bahasa Malaysia
- Passed Sejarah.
Also, students should be medically fit and have excellent eyesight and hearing with no colour blindness and hearing impairment.
Not little damsels in distress
“I think we should always stretch beyond our comfort zone and if there is any obstacle you met along the way, find a solution and then move on,” said Jamie, one recipient of Nilai University’s Scholarship.
However, one cannot deny that the Aircraft Maintenance Engineering programme is male dominant. “Once, I was the only female in the class, and I felt awkward,” laments Ee Ching, who hopes to aspire more women to enrol in this programme. “Just be bold and take charge of your dreams,” quipped Ee Ching. Like Ee Ching, Kah Mun hoped to aspire others to stretch beyond their limits and pursue their dreams too.
“My uncle cautioned me that this profession may pose challenges for women, but I like the challenge!” declared Rinisha, a final year student of the Diploma in Aircraft Maintenance Engineering. “I believe that with hard work and knowledge, I will gain the due respect from my peers,” said Rinisha, firmly.
While a good dose of positivity applies to any success, knowledge and skill is equally significant. Since the inception in 2008, the Diploma of Aircraft Maintenance Engineering (DAME) offered at Nilai University incorporates the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) syllabus, preparing students for EASA Part 66 category B1.1 and B2 license examinations. Students will sit for an EASA license examination simultaneously while pursuing the diploma. It is the first step in gaining a full EASA license. The conducive learning environment and facilities at Nilai University is among the best in the country, complete with its own purpose-built hangar that has two aircraft.
Wan Kah Mun, a second-year student, heard about Nilai University’s established reputation in providing this course, “I visited Nilai University to enquire further about this course, and it seemed interesting, so I enrolled.”
Ee Ching, another first-year student in the aircraft maintenance engineering programme enrolled at Nilai University after encountering issues with her previous institution where she had spent one year. “I like the campus environment at Nilai University, it is better than the training academy I was studying before”, Ee Ching mentioned.
Students who have completed their Diploma in Aircraft Maintenance Engineering, may either go into employment or to pursue their Advanced Diploma in Aircraft Engineering Technology. In the advanced diploma level, after a year, students who complete the programme will receive dual awards; an advanced diploma and a BEng (Hons) Aircraft Engineering from Kingston University. Over and on top of this, students will undergo 6 months on-the-job training with Airbus, Air Asia-X or KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.
Progressing on the right track; setting priorities and stretching beyond their comfort zones
“The lifestyle in the city is just too hectic for me. I want to focus on my studies, and hence a quiet environment suits me. But I still find time to join other activities. Recently, I joined the aviation society and also volunteered as an orientation counsellor,” said Elma Emily Young, who enrolled in the Diploma of Aircraft Maintenance Engineering in October 2018. She felt that studying at Nilai University has allowed her to come out of her shell. “I was an introvert when I first came to the university, so for me to gain more exposure, I volunteered as an orientation counsellor. This will give me an avenue to help other students to blend in,” commented Elma Jamie and Kah Mun also felt that the pleasant campus environment and lush green surrounding at Nilai University was the best place to focus on their studies.
Rinisha, the recent president of the Aviation Society at Nilai University said she had endless opportunities to organise and participate in events and field trips to companies such as GE Engine Services Malaysia Sdn Bhd, Airbus and even to the recent LIMA2019. Nevertheless, Ee Ching also took on a demanding role in the Chinese Society. “I am to source for sponsorships for the society, this enabled me to learn how to approach others for donations. This is beyond my comfort zone. It is not an easy task, but I learn how to pitch for sponsorships,” quipped Ee Ching.
Forging ahead despite all odds
Students will complete both diploma and an advanced diploma in 3 ½ years and then must accumulate another five years of working experience in maintaining, repairing and overhauling of aircraft before applying for EASA Part 66 Basic License. The journey to becoming a licensed aircraft maintenance engineer may test your resilience.
Yoong Hui would ask those who have completed their SPM to ponder upon their decisions carefully. “Can you imagine yourself as an aircraft maintenance technician or engineer working on odd-hour shifts, under extreme heat, being sweaty, dirty and facing gender issues at work, with possibly an unattractive starting salary, would you endure and pursue this career?” questioned Yoong Huei. “If you have decided, then be responsible for your decision, see it through and complete what you have started,” voiced Ee Ching who admits that the course syllabus is not as easy as she thought. “Be disciplined and open-minded. Excel by your own standards, keep improving yourself, talk and discuss with your course mates to solve issues,” determined Jamie.
Jamie advises that when choosing an educational institution to pursue this course, ensure that the institution has industry recognition. Also, the lecturers should have diverse experience to share in maintaining a variety of aircraft; commercial or military. Apart from this, Ee Ching adds that the programme should equip graduates the knowledge and qualification to be in supervisory roles too. The Diploma and Advanced Diploma with a top-up UK degree from Kingston University offer students the flexibility to either pursue a career as a Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineer or to move on quickly to supervisory and management roles. Furthermore, according to the Malaysia Quality Assurance (MQA), the Advanced Diploma in Aircraft Engineering Technology is equivalent to a General Bachelor’s Degree from any other public universities in Malaysia.
Inspiring education and enriching lives - Nilai University’s Scholarship Schemes
Nilai University offers 7 types of scholarships. A few popular scholarships are:
- The High Achiever’s Scholarship (HAS) provides a 100% tuition fee waiver to students who have received excellent scores
- Sports Focus Centre - Fencing Award; Extra Curriculum & Sports Excellence Award (ECSEA)
- The Extra Curriculum & Sports Excellence Award (ECSEA) rewards secondary and high school leavers who have regular and consistent achievement in sports (National & State Representative/Players only)
- Merit Scholarship
Evidently, some outstanding young minds are the recipient of these scholarships- Rinisha Nehru (ECSEA), Yoong Huei and Elma Emily (Merit Scholarship) and Jamie Goh (EFL)
If you are interested in any of the scholarships offered, please ask Nilai University’s education counsellors. Nilai University offers both business-and science-based degrees and is open daily except on weekends and public holidays. Please call 06-850 2308 for an appointment or click on their website at www.nilai.edu.my or visit our campus in Nilai.
Published at The Star Online: The Star Online