Resourcing up: why the clearing house is the right approach Post Covid-19
By Marc Bailey, CEO of The British Business and General Aviation Association (BBGA).
It is clear to everyone across the world that the pandemic has severely damaged the shape of aviation. At best we can hope for a ‘U’ shaped recovery that sees a return to pre-crisis commercial flying around 2023. A more pessimistic model from leading analysts suggests that in 2025 global flying hours will have returned to just 10% below 2019 levels.
Add to that the cultural changes that have swiftly taken hold - the reliance on technology and connectivity, working from home with frequent online meetings, we already have a supplementary shift in attitudes towards travel.
Various Board members tell me they would now prefer three virtual meetings per annum and just one ‘master’ face-to-face meeting. This will save time and money. If you can deliver the necessary governance for your business, or association, it makes sense, for all sectors, not just aviation, affected more than most.
Let’s take a look at the ‘people’ in our industry.
The demographics of our community - those working in flight operations (aircrew), ground operations (daily logistics of operating aircraft), or airworthiness (maintaining and supporting aircraft) are mostly in their mid to late fifties.
New opportunities in aviation centre on technology - drones, electrification of aircraft, software and data science. New skillsets lean towards computing, design and tech.
Let’s add to that the fact that STEM subjects are typically not as popular in academic schooling, so we have fewer candidates willing to consider aviation as a career. Aviation is not seen as a ‘preferred’ vocation and for whatever reason, parents will actively direct their children into other disciplines where it is perceived they will be more successful.
For the last two decades, government focus has been to encourage achievement through the promotion of universities. Many aviation skills, however, over 90% come from vocational qualifications. That vital on the job training (invariably with a knowledgeable middle-aged mentor) provides valuable knowledge for any future role in aviation.
Stellar example - Stansted College
Before the pandemic, we were getting excellent traction in terms of attracting youngsters into our sector. There were successful pockets of success like Stansted College, supported by commercial and business aviation companies, focused on vocational training to primarily support businesses based around London Stansted Airport.
Stansted Airport College
That game-changing facility went from zero to just under 500 students in two and a half years. To quote Prime Minister Boris Johnson those students were ‘oven ready’ for the workplace.
Alas, many of those jobs supported by vocational training have disappeared. For as well as making older, long established employees redundant, aviation companies have also paused their training programmes. A negative and worrying consequence is that whatever ‘feed from the next generation’ we had coming into aviation has been significantly reduced.
Perfect storm for aviation resources
If we put all these things together, you can see what can only be described as a perfect storm for aviation resources going forward.
It is quite shocking that the monumental scale of redundancies in aviation is expected to be as high as 100,000 - and even that is a conservative estimate. Sadly, we can expect to lose a significant amount of talent from our pool – many being forced into early retirement against their will. Younger recruits, seeing their opportunities taken away, will likely move to a non-aviation career.
In normal times, market forces would disrupt areas of aviation and employees made redundant would have the opportunity to move to other organisations in similar roles. In the current conditions, with the whole market distressed, recovery is not coming around the corner any time soon.
The chances of reclaiming these aviation people two to three years later is a big risk and there will only be a certain number of levers that you can pull to attract people – be they young (or older.)
Come the end of 2020, it is most likely Brexit will have happened. We will be sitting outside of EASA. We will have limitations in terms of our access to European skies and resources may not be as transferable as they have been previously.
To strengthen the position of UK plc we must do everything that we can now to create a ‘clearing house’ for aviation to help so many redundant staff find new roles.
This clearing house concept, otherwise known as TRS, has been discussed as a joint project with government and industry with a view to rolling out this month. TRS, which has its roots in the Defence & Aerospace Industry was extended recently by Industry, with the financial backing and support of Government, into the Construction Sector https://www.trs-system.co.uk/construction
BBGA, working remotely and during lockdown, is very pleased to be actively involved in this initiative for aviation.
Initially, we may be able to redeploy laid off staff to SME’s in business aviation where our recovery rates will likely be shorter than the scheduled airlines. If we are lucky, then perhaps 15-20% of jobs may be retained through this channel. Ideally if possible, people can be redeployed into complementary industries so that they retain their skills and the potential interest in aviation. It is vital that we retain contact with those people via this innovative resource so that further down the recovery path we can encourage a return to aviation as the market slowly returns.
The next decision we must take is to establish a UK training programme for aviation based on the best prediction of our new normal. Currently, industry is generating less revenue than its basic operational costs and many companies will either use their reserves for a limited period, fund new debt using whatever finance they choose as valid for their business model, or in the worst case scenario, cease trading.
Taking the more optimistic model it will be 2023 at the earliest that some of these equations start to balance. Therefore, training our next generation of employees is unlikely to be supported in any significant way until that time. We cannot afford to create this future problem with our perfect storm. Rather, we must intervene with a government funded training programme starting in 2021.
When industry has recovered it should move back into the hands of industry to fund. Models like this already exist in the EU and a recent example of this is in the Netherlands, where its government is funding the training of 500 maintenance apprentices this year, on top of 500 in the previous two years. The fact that the Dutch have chosen to go at risk and continue training against a backdrop of zero demand is a brave decision, but one which make them well positioned for the recovery.
It is vital that we make a similar strategic decision if we wish to be a global aviation force sitting outside of the EU.
|Marc Bailey is the CEO of The British Business and General Aviation Association (BBGA). He marks 10 years with the organisation in December. The UK’s national trade body, and EBAA’s largest national association, BBGA members span all facets of the sector, representing over represents 180 companies, including airports, FBOs, corporate flight departments, operators, aviation services organisations and aircraft manufacturers.|
BlueSky Business Aviation News | 3rd September 2020 | Issue #571
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