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Special Report - New Techniques in Training

Special report - Training

Training techniques are evolving away from the strict rules of the classroom, into evidence- and competency-based solutions

The economic crisis has temporarily allayed recruitment concerns, but the training revisions planned by potential staff shortages remain. The changes promise airlines a motivated, highly skilled workforce in the years ahead.

“The industry now has a window of opportunity to implement a new training strategy so we’re ready for future growth and any recruitment issues,” says Guido Gianasso, Vice President, Human Capital at IATA. “It is a different market now, but it’s a different strategy too. We’re convinced aviation will reap the benefits in the years ahead.”

There are two main innovations, which are applicable across all sectors of the industry. First is the move towards competency-based training and away from a bottom-up, classroom approach. This entails teaching a candidate until they are deemed competent, rather than relying on prescriptive rules such as counting the number of hours trained.

Pilot training provides the clearest example. “The new strategy has been developed to ensure recruits are equipped to deal with modern aircraft in a 21st-century operating environment,” says Guenther Matschnigg, Senior Vice President of IATA’s Safety, Operations and Infrastructure department. “So we don’t delay a talented person from progressing quickly, and we don’t jeopardize safety by passing somebody when they’re not ready.”

The Multi-crew Pilot Licence—a symbol of this brave new world—has already produced about 50 graduates in different countries and some 400 are currently in training.

The other crucial training development is utilizing industry data. This means using all available information in a training program. “For example, there was nothing that trained pilots for a high-altitude stall, even though we have clear evidence that this can be a real risk,” says Matschnigg. “We have exhaustive data, and we must exploit that in our training methodologies. Evidence-based training is vital.”

Other improvements will supplement the fresh outlook. Instructors will need to be schooled to the same high standard throughout the world, and training exercises and simulators will need to be aligned with the new methodology.
The costof learning

One challenge in improving training is maintaining a tight control on costs. While the new industry strategy is about providing quality training rather than managing cost, budgets are necessarily limited.

The knife is cutting deepest in general management courses. “This is where the money has disappeared,” confirms Gianasso, noting that IATA’s own experiences as a training provider are reflecting universal industry trends.

Education in technical skills is largely continuing unaffected. Cargo, for example, requires a very specific and technical skill set, and IATA reports no change in course attendance.

Meanwhile, organizational training has benefited from increased interest. “All airline CEOs understand the need for restructuring from board level down, so any training relating to organizational change has been given a high priority,” he says. “This has become an active area.”

Higher priority is also being given to more cost-effective measures such as distance and e-learning. Gianasso says IATA will re-engineer its distance learning program in response to market demand. “We have a network of about 160 partners around the world and we’re looking to strengthen that,” he notes. “We want to improve our leverage of the brand to encourage new partners.” The association will more than double e-learning in 2010.

Costs will also be driven down by the big increase in the number of training companies. Strong competition is also forcing an improvement in quality, although regional differences in standards still need to be monitored. IATA aims to develop and influence quality levels through its own programs.

IATA Training

As part of the move into competency-based training, IATA will continue developing its classroom courses. This will not only make them more relevant but also ensure they are offered in the regions where they are needed most.

Aside from general courses, IATA will further enhance its bespoke service. Providing training for companies in-house grew 16% in 2009 and will increase further in 2010. This is an offshoot of the competency approach as companies are realizing the benefits of defining training according to their own needs and structure.

Clients for IATA training range from airlines to airports and civil aviation authorities. For example, IATA recently signed an agreement with the Indian Ministry of Civil Aviation to provide a series of management courses.

“IATA is a strong brand,” says Guido Gianasso, Vice President, Human Capital at IATA. “Moreover, we provide totally unbiased support. It’s understood that our products have some advantages over the offerings of a commercial outfit.”

In all IATA trains approximately 35,000 people every year, in courses ranging from Cargo Dangerous Good Regulations to International Strategy and Communication, and in locations as far apart as Miami and Beijing.

Value for money

Competency- and evidence-based training is not just for pilots. These ideas can be translated into all sectors of the aviation industry.

Dnata, the ground handling division of Emirates Group, offers an interesting case study. Nick Moore, Senior Vice President, Dnata Airport Operations, says new methodologies not only offer an improved technique but are more cost effective too.

He stresses that training—particularly in the area of safety—has never been and never will be compromised by cost, but accepts that the present economic situation has underlined the need for greater efficiency.

Outside the classroom

Dnata has been moving towards competency-based training for the past two years. Training Manager Craig McBride says this means people don’t have to be pulled away from their jobs for days spent in the classroom. “We can now conduct ongoing training and assessment on the job, and so keep productivity levels high,” he says. “It makes a vital difference to costs.”

McBride reveals the sheer scale of operations at Dubai has allowed the company to identify further efficiencies met by competency-based training. “For example, we have a new aircraft push-back simulator arriving in 2010,” he says. “This will maximize the cost effectiveness of our training although, of course, it isn’t an option for everybody. We have 85 push-back operators so can justify the expenditure.”

Another low-cost competency training technique, e-learning, is also allowing Dnata to do more with less. Software is becoming more interactive and a better training tool as a result.

Indeed, interaction is a cornerstone of the modern training philosophy. Moore explains that Dubai’s status as a transfer hub means a large number of nationalities use the airport on a daily basis, and staff must have excellent customer-facing skills and be competent in dealing with a variety of issues from new technology to simple wayfinding. “Some aspects of our work can still be quite intensive here,” he says.

Holistic view

Induction training is tailored to certain roles but Moore says the idea is to give personnel as holistic a view of operations as possible. “We wish we could do more but you have to be realistic about costs and the timeframe,” he admits. “The bigger picture is something that only really comes through experience but we want staff to be part of a team, and have the confidence and knowledge to handle the wide range of situations that occur during their working day.”

The new focus on competency-based training should help staff achieve these goals.

Both Moore and McBride believe that success in training is hard to judge, but meeting all of its service level agreements is one indicator. “With recent restructuring of operations we have even managed to reduce the number of man hours needed to turnaround an aircraft,” concludes Moore.

Making aviation attractive

Although the drop in passenger traffic has postponed fears of a recruitment crisis, it hasn’t banished them altogether, as demonstrated by BMI’s comment that: “We must not stop working at recruitment strategy.”

Making aviation attractive to graduates will be challenging. Whether training to be a pilot, engineer or ground staff, the reality is that there will be shift work involved, salaries are closely monitored and there are job security issues. It is also true that airports and civil aviation authorities are a bigger pull and are financially able to invest strongly in their futures.

IATA is working with ICAO on the Next Generation of Aviation Professionals (NGAP) to address the issue. NGAP is an ICAO program that complements IATA’s Training Quality Initiative.

Two NGAP planning meetings took place last year, at which three Task Force teams were identified:

  • Human Resource Planning
  • Outreach
  • Methodology

Although plans of action have been tentatively identified, they will only be confirmed at the NGAP symposium, which is taking place in early March at ICAO HQ in Montreal.

Guenther Matschnigg, Senior Vice President of IATA’s Safety, Operations and Infrastructure says that it’s important the industry keeps its focus and works to attract people into the industry. “We should also ensure a regional focus, so we are getting recruits and the same high-quality training in all regions.”

Focusing on performance

Taking training to the regions

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Additional information

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