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Safety, Security and Operations Skills Training Vital for Aviation’s Restart

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on travel, particularly international flights. As passengers return, the aviation industry faces a need to train new employees as well as provide refresher training for the existing workforce, many of whom may have been furloughed. It is essential that aviation staff are fully aware of the latest safety, security and operations requirements in what will be a new era for global transportation.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has released research on the training requirements for the aviation workforce as the industry starts to recover from the COVID-19 crisis.

According to a global survey of some 800 human resources leaders in the aviation industry responsible for learning and development, right-skilling existing workers and ensuring that new hires from outside aviation can quickly acquire the necessary skills will be key to successfully building the post-pandemic workforce. 75% of North American organizations highlighted addressing training needs as an important post-pandemic strategy.

To achieve this, training programs will need to be adapted, with around half the survey respondents stating that their top priority is to assess available workforce skills and map these against their organization’s competency requirements. This will form the basis for the required training curriculums. The pandemic had already forced many airlines and other companies in the value chain, like ground service providers, to assess what overall skills their employees possessed to adapt to new operational requirements. A case in point was the need to load cargo in cabins of passenger aircraft repurposed to carry cargo only.

As demand for air travel recovers, companies will be bringing back employees but will also be hiring from outside the industry. Results from the survey show that the topics of safety, operations, security, and economic disciplines have been identified as the main areas where training will be required to master the current situation. 

Safety was highlighted as particularly critical for airlines, ground service providers and airports.

Survey respondents said skills including the control and inspection of operational safety, safety oversight, risk management, root cause analysis and new health safety procedures related to Covid-19 would be crucial. Specifically, organizations are looking to train on skills such as safety management, personal safety, passenger safety, workplace safety and handling safety in relation to the virus – and in many cases this training will continue or increase regardless of budgetary constraints.

There is also a need to provide training on recognizing and analyzing threats to security, both as refresher education for the existing workforce who may have been furloughed or seen far fewer travelers and also for new hires.

“IATA has been providing training for aviation professionals for nearly 50 years. The technical nature of our industry, coupled with stringent requirements defined by the regulators, drive the necessity for standardized training across the sector. Given the fact that the COVID-19 crisis forced many companies to either completely halt or drastically scale down training, we will continue to adapt our portfolio to ensure that we can contribute to the industry’s restart,” said Frédéric Leger, Interim Senior Vice President, Commercial Products and Services at IATA & Cargo Network Services President.

In training delivery, focus will shift to digital methods as opposed to conventional classroom training:

  • 36% of the respondents have already moved their focus to distance / e-learning
  • 85% of the respondents said that online learning including virtual classrooms will play an important role in the recovery

Digital learning options already played a key role in some of the initiatives IATA offered in supporting the industry during the pandemic, such as:

  • A special online training course for former cabin crew to help them realize their potential outside the industry
  • Virtual classroom training for temperature-controlled cargo operations to support the vaccine transport
  • An eLearning module for the transport of pharma products and vaccines by air
  • Training on Ground Support Equipment to support ground handlers in managing their supply during the pandemic and enabling maintenance of vital equipment.
  • Transforming critical training courses – such as dangerous goods – into a virtual format to enable attendance in the face of travel restrictions.

As aviation rebuilds, topics such as sustainability and digitalization will gain in importance. IATA is already working with several academic partners to design courses on sustainability to attract new talent and help shape the future of aviation. Furthermore, a new cross-functional Aeronautical Skills IATA Working Group will ensure that the future training requirements are in line with the needs brought about by the digital transformation of the industry.

“IATA continues to be ready to support the training needs of the aviation value chain. During the COVID-19 pandemic we have shown that we can quickly adapt to changing requirements. With the groundwork done on sustainability and digitalization, we are preparing to satisfy the needs of tomorrow’s aviation workforce,” said Leger.

Read the Aviation Workforce Skills & Training Report at IATA

Kylie Bielby
Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.

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