The development of the local aerospace industry to aid diversification and job creation

A key element of Plan Al Ain 2030 – and one that will become even more prominent with forthcoming updates to the plan – is the push to diversify the region’s economy to provide employment opportunities for its growing working-age population and establish Al Ain as a regional economic centre by encouraging local employment opportunities and attracting residents.

Aerospace Industry

Many of these efforts centre around the local aerospace industry, which was launched in 2010 when the state-owned investment firm, Mubadala Development Company, and the Abu Dhabi Airports Company established the Nibras Al Ain Aerospace Park – a 25-sq-km facility located near Al Ain Airport – with the aim of developing a global aerospace, aviation and defence industry hub in the city.

Among the main tenants of the park are the Mubadala subsidiary Strata, which manufactures composite aerostructures for original equipment manufacturers including market leaders like Boeing and Airbus. At the Dubai Airshow in November 2013, the two firms signed deals providing Strata with over DH16bn ($4.36bn) worth of manufacturing work through 2030.

Other tenants of Nibras include the commercial and military flight training organisation, Horizon International Flight Academy, as well as several other providers of maintenance and auxiliary services to the aerospace industry. Future tenants will include fellow Mubadala subsidiary, Advanced Military Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul Centre (AMMROC), which provides maintenance, repair and operations services to militaries throughout MENA and South Asia, with a state-of-theart facility already in development.

Local Talent

Since starting operations in 2010, Strata has grown into one of the largest industrial employers in Al Ain, with around 650 employees. About 45% of its employees were UAE nationals in 2014, 85% of which were female technicians trained by the firm. Strata is now targeting a 50% Emiratisation rate by end-2015. “Emiratisation should not just be a numbers game; it is about creating quality jobs,” Badr Al Olama, the CEO of Strata, told OBG. In particular, the firm has concentrated on training Emiratis to take on technical roles in the company. “We now have technical team leaders that are UAE nationals, which is a major achievement in a short amount of time,” Al Olama said.

The company is undertaking a large expansion drive that will create further employment opportunities in the city, with plans to expand its existing plant by around 40% and establish a second plant, to be known as Strata II, which will employ around 600-650 staff. The company also plans to expand further in the future.

According to Al Olama, the firm is hoping to break ground on the plant in 2016, most likely towards the end of the year, with the facility due to begin operations in 2017. “The first plant will feed into the development of the second; for example, the top staff from Strata I will move over to Strata II,” he explained.

Education & Training

Al Olama told OBG that one of the main reasons for choosing Al Ain as the location for an aerospace hub was the presence of a university with a good engineering school, namely UAE University (UAEU). Strata is working with its parent company and UAEU to provide a variety of education and training programmes. Under Strata’s technician programme, candidates are initially trained at UAEU before receiving further training on the shop floor of the company. Some qualified technicians even go on to pursue an applied bachelor’s degree in engineering for manufacturing. In the autumn of 2013 Mubadala and UAEU launched a five-course programme to allow students from the Department of Mechanical Engineering to graduate with a minor in aerospace engineering. The programme has grown quickly, with 40 students joining its second intake in the spring of 2014.

Al Ain’s growing status as an aerospace industry hub is also expected to help provide both jobs and training in non-technical areas. “We are pushing for the development of skills in three areas in addition to engineering, namely supply chain management, programme management and quality assurance,” Al Olama said.

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The Report: Abu Dhabi 2015

Al Ain chapter from The Report: Abu Dhabi 2015

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