Reforms Needed to Attract and Retain Ground Handling Talent, IATA Says

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The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called for holistic reforms to manage the long-term need for a stable talent base for the ground handling sector.

Thousands of ground handling staff left the aviation industry during the pandemic. Now as aviation ramps up, the severe shortage of skilled ground handlers is shedding light on the need for reform to stabilize the talent pool.

In the immediate term, the most pressing issue is the bottleneck for security clearances as the airline industry prepares for the peak northern summer season. Longer-term, IATA urges the ground handling sector to adopt a stronger talent acquisition strategy, streamline onboarding processes, and als develop a more compelling retention proposition.

“The peak northern summer travel season is fast-approaching, and passengers are already experiencing the effects of bottlenecks in getting security clearances for staff at the airport. Additional resources are needed to accelerate the processing times for employment security clearances which can be as much as 6 months in some markets. The shortages we are experiencing today are a symptom of the longer-term challenges to achieve a stable talent base in ground handling,” said Nick Careen, IATA’s Senior Vice President for the Operations, Safety and Security.

At the IATA Ground Handling Conference, IATA proposed a comprehensive approach to recruitment, onboarding, and retention. Attracting fresh talent is critical, but this is made more challenging by perceptions created in the pandemic with the critical retrenchment of large numbers of staff, including those in ground handling, IATA emphasised.

Furthermore, IATA recommends an awareness campaign to highlight the attractiveness and importance of ground operations in global logistics and transport operations, as well as adoption of 25by25 campaign to help address the gender imbalance across the industry. IATA also favours apprenticeships in partnership with trade schools to revitalize candidate pipelines, as well as career path mapping to demonstrate long-term prospects for people entering the sector.

“An industry-wide approach to lay the foundations for more efficient talent recruitment, onboarding and retention will pay big benefits in terms of efficiency for all concerned. The cornerstone is the standardization that can be achieved with the adoption of the IGOM. Its global implementation will have a huge and positive impact in all aspects of ground handling, including talent management. The potential is to shift working in the sector from having a job to developing a career,” said Careen.

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