AUSTRALIA needs more women to enter the aviation industry to help avoid potential skills shortages in coming years. A report commissioned by the Australian government found that women represented just 20 per cent of the overall aviation workforce compared to 46 per cent across all industries. This figure was largely driven by significantly more women working as flight attendants and the figure dropped as low as 10 per cent in most other specialist aviation occupations. The report by Australian Industry Standards and released Friday also found the gender distribution in aviation was unlikely to change in the absence of targeted industry initiatives to encourage more female participation. The finding prompted Transport Minister Darren Chester to urge the industry to attract more women into flying, engineering and other senior aviation roles. His call echoes one last year by senior Boeing executive Sherry Carbary. “In looking to the future we need to find ways to attract more young people, including women, and deliver affordable and accessible pathways for them to achieve their training requirements,’’ Chester said. “This report is important to the future of an industry estimated to have added more than $15 billion to the Australian economy in 2015-16.’’ Read: Women an untapped resource to fill pilot and technician demand. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority estimates there were almost 55,000 workers in Australia’s aviation industry in 2013 but the AIS report suggested this is too low, pointing to an IBISWorld estimate that the number at more than 82,000. It expected the number to fall slightly this year and rise by 2 per cent by 2021. There was still high demand for pilots, although the report said this could not be considered a shortage due to a large number of candidates with basic qualifications. Also in strong demand were ground operations occupations such as aircraft baggage handlers, airline ground crew and load controllers. But the number of airline maintenance vacancies advertised online had more than halved since 2006. “The offshoring and/or outsourcing of aircraft maintenance functions by Australian airlines in recent years has had a tremendous effect on the maintenance engineering training landscape,’’ it said. “Several generalist engineering training providers have stopped their aviation courses. “There is significant concern within the industry that closing engineering training facilities will impede the ability of training providers and maintenance businesses to rebound or take advantage of international growth opportunities.’’ The report argued for a strong industry-wide approach to aviation workforce planning and development, supported by streamlined policy and regulation. Acknowledging the cost barriers in aviation training, it said there was a need for the industry to invest more in its current and future workforce though public and private funding mechanisms. It also pointed to significant issues raised by industry about safety regulatory reform and the cost -benefits of the changes. It identified flying training as a potential growth area, noting this was high quality but costly in Australia. The report found opportunities for greater collaboration between the aviation industry and its training suppliers as well to strengthen Australian aviation training in the Asia-Pacific through joint industry-government efforts. Chester said the report’s findings would be considered by key industry participants and the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) in the context of a study on general aviation. “While the Australian Government will provide a formal response to the study in the coming months, I am looking forward to working in partnership with industry to help address skills and training issues,” he said.