Evolving your Workforce – The Importance of Managing Competencies

A Discussion Paper by Steve Bentley,
Managing Director,
Sofema Aviation Services

The role of the MRO, whether it is whole aircraft or components, is to meet the obligation to deliver finished work on time to the customer. To do this requires trained competent and motivated staff.

Access to a good quality workforce is vital in sustaining and growing the regional MRO market. The challenge facing the industry is how to recruit, train and retain enough engineers to fulfill current and future MRO demand.
Without doubt there are problems ahead for example In one Eastern European Country the youngest Aircraft engineer is over the age of 40 years !

In this article, We ask -
a) What specialized training and recruitments processes should be put in place to make sure that this manpower gap is filled ?
b) How do you ensure that engineers are trained to the correct standard with the right experience?
Bringing in new & younger people has specific advantages, They are not burdened by pre existing behaviours, and they are generally cheaper to recruit.

Plus they may receive from the organization specific training in the areas where it is needed. And some disadvantages, they may not be as effective and efficient as fully competent staff. They also require effective supervision and ongoing training
We all accept that access to a good quality workforce is vital in both sustaining and growing the regional MRO market.
So to focus then on two specific areas  :-
Maintaining our existing Workforce
*           Continuous Development
*           Effective Oversight and Process Management
Developing New workforce solutions
*           In House Trained
*           Training Partnership
*           Contract  (short term but has specific advantages)

Where is this workforce to come from ?
In a recession an early area to take a hit is “Training”
Now Consider ! – UK CAA warns of critical shortage of Aircraft Engineers -  Jan 2011
UK CAA – aircraft engineer numbers have halved during the past 30 years despite the increase in numbers of operational aircraft
In fact – Similar trends to those identified by the UK CAA have also been witnessed in other major aviation countries.
Although this reduction of engineering  manpower has, to a degree, been alleviated by investment in new aircraft, which need less maintenance in the early years of their life, shortages of engineers already exists.!
Industry prognoses more or less agrees that, the shortage will intensify and may even become severe.
Add to this the growing demographic problem with the UK for example showing that more than 50% of today’s highly skilled workforce are over the age of 40; the problem suddenly reaches critical mass. AEI has long been highlighting the close relationship between manpower levels, training standards and safety. With industry booming, it will not be possible to maintain the required high levels of safety without a corresponding boom in training initiatives.  -  AEI therefore “compels” industry to adopt training and recruitment as its number one priority.
How to recruit, train and retain enough engineers to fulfill current and future MRO demand.
The Management of Change – To be successful in meeting the challenges faced by MRO’s over the coming years it is necessary to have (and manage) strategic management competencies.
How can we mentor and grow a workforce, if the management does not have the specific skill set to deliver the Competency Management processes ?
Leadership is an essential element which can help maintain a motivated workforce throughout periods of change. In addition managers and leaders should possess the capacity to both identify and rapidly deliver the changes required.
Standing still is not an option. !

Do we agree on what we mean by training ? This is not a factious remark, because training may be delivered in a variety of ways.
The crucial element is how we co–ordinate and document. (An active training file could be developed for each employee)
How to manage for effectiveness ? and how to Benchmarking Standards
Approach to Training
Classroom  – Formal system to deliver information

*           In-House – Preferred

*           External – Issues with maintaining oversight &      Standards

OJT  – Less Formal process

Mentoring – More Formal – Preferred  (Coaching-based OJT program strategy)

More about OJT & Mentoring

A successful OJT program is created in a team environment.
A champion in the company is needed to administer the program. ( Or Area Champions !)
Supervisors are assigned to oversee the training needs of each trainee. –
(Note: They do not necessarily conduct any training.)
The organization should identify the specific training requirements  for each employee
Local management, to assist in identifying and tracking employee training requirements and verifying that personnel have received the planned training
Training programs should be adapted to fit the needs and complexity of the organization.
Training for ?
A range of trainings are required to develop an effective work force.
To consider that each and every employee within the organization may be at a different point in the personal understanding of their role. In addition to promote an understanding of the organisations systems, processes, procedures and requirements.
OJT trainers use coaching skills as they direct the learning process, Every OJT coach is given specialized training on teaching and coaching skills, OJT is conducted based on standardized methods for each job or task. (Management has to create a positive attitude about coaching)
Human Factor Training
Trainings can raise awareness of exposures the employee and organization faces and even motivate if delivered correctly. Please consider the Human Factors training within your organization is it still relevant, Is it being continuously developed or at least reviewed for its effectiveness ?
Safety Management System Training
The term “culture” is increasingly being used in connection with Safety Management Systems and organizational behaviours. What we should understand is that we need to actively develop and promote positive cultural within the organization which has a direct influence on the effectiveness of our Safety Management System.
Benchmarking Standards
As an auditor with more than 20 years experience, I see many MRO organisations, some of whom for sure understand what is required and how to deliver it. I also see some organisations which unfortunately limit the upside due to organizational weaknesses.
I also talk to operators who are able to choose MRO’s and comment that they observe shortfall or weakness which can if left unchecked damage the product.
In reality most people will pay a little more for what they perceive to be a Quality product.

External Training Partnerships
Examples where this has been successful may be found between Lufthansa Technik Sofia and the Institute of Air Transport Sofia. Many different solutions are available for all MRO’s , however I hope you agree that much more can be done to add structure and focus to the recruitment and training process.
Competencies What’s it all about ?
The effective management of competencies can not be over stated
What areas are we talking about, when we talk about Competency ?
This list is not in order of merit, however typically it includes the top 20.
Attitude  – Care & Concern – Quality Of Work – Relationships – Team Working -
Communication ability – Speak & Listen – Professionalism – Respect for Authority -
Planning and Organising – Initiative and Creativity – Commitment – Job Knowledge and Skills – Dependability – Time Keeping – Judgement  – Quantity of Work – Output – Leadership Skills – Adaptability – Integrity – Support for others.
So what are the messages ?
1/ Take a long hard look at how you are managing the competencies across your business – there is a good chance you can do more for not a lot of expenditure.
2/ Look at the skill level of your workforce. Is it appropriate or are you employing staff at a higher cost because of existing structures. ( For example in Base Maintenance the CRS is typically signed by the C certifier, the number licensed support staff is required to be appropriate for the organization structure.) – In fact “appropriate” is an inverse function of the efficiency of the process.

3/ Inspection is a critically important activity, it is a fundament of delivering successful MSG3 Maintenance . Inspection Staff do not have to be licensed but they should be trained. It is a mistake to believe that a Licensed engineer automatically has all the requisite knowledge to perform inspections.
4/ Delivering training which connects the workforce directly into the effectiveness of the Safety Management System is a must – Yet many MRO’s are still to embrace an SMS which is compliant with ICAO Annex 6.
5/ Developing recruitment strategies which are able to bring new people into the organization and manage their training for maximum effectiveness.
6/ Optimize the Production Planning process as this is a key area in managing the integration of the competency process particularly when connected to the mentoring.