The full Aircraft Maintenance Technology article can be found at www.aviationpros.com/magazine/amt/issue/2016/sep.
Near the airport, in Anthony, Kansas, sit the remains of a concrete arrow and a beacon tower. They remind us of what was once a network of ‘Beacon-Towers’ stretching from New York to San Francisco. It was the ‘next generation’ of aviation navigation. Before then, pilots navigated primarily by pilotage: looking out their windows for familiar landmarks.
Nearly 1500 installations in total, the Beacon Tower system was launched in 1924 by the US Postal Service. It was unlike any system anywhere in the world. The network was a big deal. It helped pilots find what they were looking for more quickly and reliably and, more importantly, at night.
Innovations in navigation have undoubtedly driven industry growth. Early methods – pilotage, non-directional radio beacons – have given way to today’s satellite-based Global Positioning Systems (GPS). GPS raised the bar for the entire industry. Safety and service efficiencies are insured with reliable information. Navigation became more precise, enabling closer spacing of planes. Expanded route capacities created value and industry growth.
Nowadays, industry growth depends on other factors. Talent management – the business of finding, recruiting and developing a reliable workforce – is now foundational to sustaining industry growth. Compared with innovations in aviation navigation, though, many industry talent management practices still appear to be at the ‘pilotage’ stage of their evolution.
Demand planning methods vary greatly. The use of predictive analytics to understand which job will succeed and why is uneven. Design and administration of skills assessments of incoming talent are often imprecise and uneven. As a result, to borrow a factory floor metric, costs of ‘talent rework’ can be high.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, it costs one-third of a new hire’s annual salary to replace him or her.
Step One in managing talent – finding it – can often be a time-consuming ‘seat-of-the-pants’ navigation by employers sifting through innumerable talent spot markets spread across the country.
Industry leaders are worried.
Among the many motivations to upgrade the industry’s approaches to talent management is the projected growth in new hires. It’s literally a world-wide challenge.
In the face of these challenges, more and more organizations are leaning in to help. One, the National Center for Aviation Training (NCAT) in Wichita, Kansas, is testing a plan intended to help employers source reliable talent efficiently. NCAT’s goal is to create an aviation industry talent supply chain.
Managed by the Wichita Area Technical College (WATC), NCAT was originally conceived as a regional training facility. WATC’s experience in managing a Department of Labor project, coupled with new thinking by national experts about talent markets, illuminated opportunities for NCAT to create ‘next generation’ talent solutions for the industry.
Intriguing questions emerged. Could NCAT serve regional and national needs? Could educational institutions and certification providers actually work as a supply chain to provide value-added programs and services to employers? How can supply chain management practices help solve talent shortages?
In search of answers, NCAT executives surveyed industry leaders in late 2015 and early 2016 to discuss their talent management priorities.
Topping the list was a frequently voiced concern: “we can’t navigate the educational system very well. We’re uncertain if what is taught is what our job candidates need to know to perform well”.
Almost all the respondents called for better ways to source talent from colleges and universities across multiple markets simultaneously.
Armed with this insight, NCAT is market testing a business plan which has four primary objectives:
To be sure, creating a supply chain of educational institutions poses specific, but surmountable, challenges for educators – the primary ‘suppliers’ of talent. James Hall, WATC’s Dean of Aviation Technologies, leads WATC’s solution design work for its talent supply chain projects with employers. He observed that colleges can be successful talent providers if they work “to help bring colleges and businesses together to provide the exact training required by employers.”
Many educational institutions out there really don’t have a good connection to the industry and what (the aviation industry) needs from their students
Daniel Wolfe, National Business Aviation Association, Corporate Aviation Management Committee Member -2016
An increasing number of colleges and universities think it’s worth the effort. Joining a talent supply chain can redefine ‘community’ for community colleges in ways very beneficial to students. Teaming with other institutions across the country to meet employers’ talent needs translates to institutional brand enhancement and expanded career opportunities for students.
NCAT is researching similar initiatives to help guide its plan, including some found internationally. Germany, long-known for assuring industry pools of future talent by mandating apprenticeships, is now home to the Hamburg Centre of Aviation Training (HCAT). What’s notable about HCAT is how well universities, colleges and employers collaborate to develop curricula. Alignment of education program content to employers’ talent requirements is tight, thus helping employers reduce costs by shortening the time needed for new hires to reach full productivity.
Like navigation, innovations in talent management can help the industry grow. Training is job-relevant. More candidates can be trained simultaneously. Expanded capacity created by efficient talent supply chains drives growth and value by supplying reliable talent to employers.
In January WATC began market testing of its talent supply chain. Input was invited (and continues now) from a cross-section of leaders from individual employers, national industry associations, certification providers and community and technical colleges.
Responses have been overwhelmingly favorable.
Additional information about the NCAT Talent Supply Chain may be found at www.watc.edu/ncat.
James Hall, Dean of Aviation Technologies, Wichita Area Technical College
Tim Welsh, Executive Director – Industry Services, Wichita Area Technical College