Behind the Scenes

The CAAS was restructured in July 2009 with more focused roles to develop Singapore as a global air hub and aviation centre of excellence.

By Jannelle Lau

Aviation plays a key role in Singapore’s economic development. Singapore is renowned for the world’s most awarded airport, an enviable air-safety record, a respected centre for aviation training and a strong aviation industry. The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) has an integral part to play in all the above. The authority’s raison d’etre is to develop the air hub and aviation industry in Singapore, expanding Singapore’s links to the rest of the world.

To ensure that it is well placed to meet the challenges of tomorrow, CAAS takes a pro-active approach in ensuring that policies are aligned with international best practices, and that safe and efficient aircraft operations is a top priority. CAAS also aims to contribute actively to the development of international aviation and promote Singapore as a centre for aviation capabilities, knowledge and talent.

CAAS offers a wide range of career growth opportunities in the dynamic field of aviation. Sherman Koh, a scholar with CAAS, was one person who spotted the golden opportunity and seized it. As the Assistant Director of Airport Economic & Service Regulation (AESR) Division in CAAS, Sherman oversees both the price competitiveness and the service standards of airports in Singapore. This includes not just the much vaunted Changi Airport, but also Seletar Airport.

Seizing Opportunities

When Sherman was looking for scholarships, the aviation industry caught his interest. “The growth of the aviation industry in Singapore was a big draw, and the industry focus provided opportunities for me to develop myself professionally and gain specialised expertise. The CAAS scholarship offered me the unique opportunity to join and contribute to the dynamic aviation industry.”

It also gave him the chance to experience an overseas education. Supported by the scholarship, Sherman studied Electrical Engineering in Cornell, later taking up a second degree in Economics.

“While fulfilling the liberal arts course requirements (required for graduation), I realised that I was similarly interested in the liberal arts side of the education spectrum as well,” Sherman recalls. “Therefore, I proceeded to take up the dual degree option.”

This exemplifies what he feels is his greatest gain from his scholarship. “Carpe diem! My biggest takeaway is learning to take advantage of the opportunities that come my way.”

Continued Learning

After graduating in 2003, Sherman came back to work with CAAS. However, this was not the end of his learning opportunities. “CAAS also offers continual training to officers to upgrade and hone existing skill sets. Both local and overseas training are available. For example, I attended an executive training course at London Business School in 2008,” he shares.

Furthermore, CAAS offers job rotation opportunities for its employees, exposing them to the different aspects of the industry. Sherman sees these different job postings as “invaluable exposure” for himself as he handled portfolios across CAAS’s diverse operations.

Handling ground operations in the Airport Management division during his first posting, Sherman was involved in both the opening of the Budget Terminal in 2006 and Terminal 3 in 2008.

He was later assigned to the Corporate Strategy and Business Development division, where he facilitated the process of corporatisation of Changi Airport and the restructuring of CAAS. When Airport Economic and Service Regulation Division was set up in July 2009, Sherman joined the division and was involved in setting up a holistic management of the pricing, service and regulatory requirements to facilitate airport management and operations. This inevitably includes drafting of regulation policies, setting work processes and systems.

“It was an exciting time where we got to flesh out the principles, operationalise the new regulatory framework and set in place new procedures,” he reminisces.

Office life

Other than a willingness to work hard, Sherman feels that empathy and the ability to relate to others is a quality that everyone – not just scholars – should possess. He stresses that communication skills are an important part of his duties.

“The job entails a fair bit of discussion and coordination with other divisions in CAAS, as well as consultation with the Changi Airport Group. We may also interact with industry players like airlines, ground handlers, and consultants.”

This philosophy also shines through in relation to his work culture. “With hard work and good working relationships cultivated over time, it is possible to overcome any challenge,” Sherman muses. “I find that phone calls to colleagues typically work wonders in getting the job done.”

Sherman enjoys the rewarding nature of his job. “With the fast-pace of changes in the industry, it is possible to see actions taken having a real and observable impact on the ground, which is satisfying. I see myself doing meaningful and fulfilling work. I would like to be able to continue to contribute positively towards the organisation’s goals.”

“Students who are interested in the exciting aviation industry should seriously consider the CAAS scholarship. They should also be clear about what they would like to achieve in their career with CAAS,” he concludes.

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