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PEOPLE Last modified on January 19, 2014

Learning curve

ACI World’s training programmes are designed to develop airport employees from top management to frontline staff, writes Kevin Caron.

Aviation is a vital part of the increasingly globalised world economy, facilitating the growth of international trade, tourism and international investment, and connecting people across continents. 


The industry itself is a major direct generator of employment and economic activity, responsible for 5.6 million direct jobs, 63% of which are on the airport and include 500,000 directly employed by ACI members.


Whatever the mix of personnel talents and skills at a given location, airport leaders must have the means to unite their teams behind the shared objective of delivering service excellence to a multi-national customer base that has high expectations at all destinations. 


Training provides a credible platform that allows today’s airport personnel to develop the competencies and skills that will help them reach these goals and better adjust to a volatile and rapidly changing modern business environment. 


In today’s increasingly complex air transport and airport environments, leadership teams are regularly called upon to generate new revenue streams and to strengthen the social and economic potential of the communities they serve. 


As a result, airport leaders need ‘rapid-response’ business skills to balance short-term imperatives with long-term business needs. Gone are the days of the airport as a simple infrastructure supplier. 


A final challenge to consider is that, as our industry expands, airports will need to compete for existing skilled candidates. 


They will need not only to attract and train new personnel but, in order to hold on to them, ensure that they can enjoy a satisfying career development path. 


New employee survey

The newly launched ACI Europe AirPeople Survey is an employee engagement tool specifically targeted at the global airport industry. 


The aim of the survey is to help airport management employ systematic development, in order to create a high-performance airport culture in their organisation. 


According to co-developer, Corporate Spirit, it provides clear metrics for interpreting results, takes cultural issues into account, and produces results that create an understanding for developing a high-performance airport culture.


It adds that AirPeople is an applicable tool regardless of an airport’s size, location or business model and comprises an employee engagement survey and follow-up workshops.


Talking about the survey at the recent Leadership & Change Management Forum in Bologna, ACI Europe’s director of membership services and events, Danielle Michel, explained that it was recently deployed at Croatia’s Dubrovnik Airport, where 70% of staff participated.


Findings showed that although employees were proud of their work, they believed communication on development plans was lacking.


As a result, Roko Tolic, the airport’s general manager, ordered weekly meetings from heads of various departments to keep the workforce updated on plans. Both the airport and ACI Europe hope to report more on the results of the changes at next year’s forum.


The survey was developed by research and consulting professionals Corporate Spirit and This Is..., in co-operation with ACI Europe.


Developing ACI members


Under the guidance of its Training Steering Group and regional Human Resource committees, ACI has designed flexible classroom and online education programmes to maximise benefits at all levels at the airport, from top management to front line staff. Three key drivers continue to guide ACI in this strategic exercise. 


The first strategy, the alignment of standards globally from SMS to certification, is an industry pre-requisite. Where will the next generation of technical professionals come from? 


How will we build and maintain consistency as these skilled professionals migrate across borders to new opportunities? Global accreditation programmes based on shared standards are part of the solution. 


ACI is collaborating with ICAO in this area on the organisation’s Next Generation of Aviation Professionals (NGAP) initiative. The ultimate goal for the ICAO NGAP programme is to assess the changes that are needed to attract future generations to aviation and ensure that not only airport operators, but pilots, technicians and air traffic controllers as well, have the required competencies to do their jobs. 


To succeed, we must understand the next generation’s educational requirements and expectations. If we fail, we could face a shortage of aviation professionals in the next 10 to 20 years. 


A second strategy is to ensure the competencies that are now required of airport professionals. These include proficiencies in technical and operational domains, as well as the complex business leadership field. 


As a simple example of the multi-disciplinary skills demanded by today’s airports, the ‘airport city’ phenomenon is emerging more and more as a popular model for many hub airports, with due emphasis on the diversification of revenue streams. 


As a result, airports increasingly seek out and train qualified individuals to focus on the economic and commercial aspects of airport management. 


ICAO and ACI have already addressed high-level management competencies, joining forces to offer the Airport Management Professional Accreditation Programme (AMPAP). Through many of the elective offerings in this programme, we are also achieving significantly improved understanding of the non-aeronautical business, safety, environmental and regulatory imperatives that are vital for our airports. 


The third ACI personnel strategy focuses on the need to improve operational performance through targeted training. We want to be able to see concrete results from course participation.


Let’s take safety, our number one priority, as an example. Standards are defined, requirements understood, and budgets approved, yet airports in many parts of the world struggle to comply with aerodrome certification requirements. 


What is holding us back? Topping the list are investment, commitment, training, strategic human resources and entrenchment of an effective safety culture. 


To respond, ACI has incorporated safety training at all levels of its training offerings, addressing different levels of knowledge and competencies through online SMS training, two dedicated safety diplomas (Global Safety Network and Advanced Global Safety Network) and an online operations diploma programme. 


Additional tools being used to develop member competencies in this area are the joint ACI-ICAO Aerodrome Certification course and the Airport Excellence (APEX) in Safety programme.


One piece of a complex puzzle


Our people will continue to play a key role as we re-invent our industry. Training is only one piece of this puzzle, in addition to leadership, regulation, better sharing of best practices, environmental responsibility and new technologies, but it remains an essential component to future air transport sustainability and success.


Together with airport members, world business partners, faculties, vendors and other stakeholders, ACI Global Training has embarked on a voyage that will set a course for increased success in achieving airport excellence.


About the author
Kevin Caron is ACI’s assistant director, global training. He can be contacted at

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