Trusted Training Eases Engineering Shortages
Working with British Airways
- Christopher Blackburn, Head of Learning & Development, Carbon60
Working with BA as an engineering recruitment specialist, Carbon60 has grown to become a key people solutions partner working to address BA’s employment-related challenges and need for service evolution.
Skills shortages are an ever-present challenge, not just for BA but also with the rest of the aviation and wider engineering sectors. An aging workforce combined with a period of consolidation within the industry resulting in the reduction of new entrant programmes, has brought the issue of succession planning to the fore as a key issue. At British Airways, for example, their average tenure for aviation engineers is over 35 years and the apprenticeship programme was placed on hold for some years, resulting in a low intake and throughflow of fresh talent.
Finding and retaining suitably qualified engineering talent was therefore a critical area of focus for the Carbon60 recruitment teams to support on.
A variety of solutions was required to help mitigate the short-term impact of skills shortages and to replenish the engineering workforce skills going forward. Carbon60’s team of ex-engineers and qualified trainers worked with the client to identify and implement several new initiatives.
Through a series of functional reviews with BA operations managers and their resourcing team, Carbon60 identified tasks which could be carried out by lower-skilled workers without affecting the end process. As well as delivering an immediate cost reduction, higher-skilled contractors were then able to deploy their time and expertise more efficiently on more complex projects.
High performing contractors were upskilled through further training in selected ‘Aircraft Types’ and ‘Differences’ (upgrades to specific aircraft types) and qualified BA engineers were re-certified in line with the latest industry regulations to enable both groups to service more of the BA fleet.
Carbon60 also provided contractors to backfill engineering requirements while BA’s own staff underwent retraining. This required a project-based approach where Carbon60 managed multiple departments, unions and a key team of 5 elite contractors to ensure the right skills were in the right place during a 12-week training programme.
There were occasions where engineers with the relevant skillsets could not be found. To address this issue, Carbon60 put in place training courses for its contract Licensed Aircraft Engineers to bring them up to speed with the necessary approvals and accreditations, qualifying them to work on specific fleet aircraft.
To assist in enhancing existing workforce skills, Carbon60 delivered online and classroom training for Human Factors, Fuel Tank and EWIS (electrical wiring interconnection system) to Regulatory Standards, core skills required by all engineering staff.
To help provide additional funding for training, Carbon60 created a new revenue stream by identifying opportunities from its wider aviation network to sell empty classroom seats in their training rooms to other operators’ engineers.
One of Carbon60’s landmark achievements was to rescue an aviation apprenticeship scheme for 45 apprentices following the collapse of providers Monarch Aircraft Engineering. British Airways needed a trusted partner to pick-up, own and progress the learning on their behalf because they did not have the capacity internally.
Carbon60 advised BA on how to best manage their apprenticeship levy pot to fund the successful completion of the programme at zero cost. Within just 12 weeks, Carbon60 successfully agreed service parameters, employed a team of three engineering tutors and assessors and inducted and commenced the training of all 45 learners across all year groups. Following the successful completion of this first aviation apprenticeship contract, Carbon60 has since developed all procedures and is now accredited by City & Guilds to deliver aviation qualifications and self-certify BA learners as competent on completion.
A solutions-based approach to customer challenges backed by the experience of many years of onsite account management is a key factor in the development of a mutually beneficial relationship with BA and multiple contract renewals. Carbon60’s successes in the UK for BA were instrumental in sister company Guidant’s appointment as IAG’s Global Managed Service Provider. Carbon60’s agreement now covers all IAG airlines, which include British Airways, Vueling, Aer Lingus, Iberia and BA City Flyer.
Carbon60’s BA apprenticeships have seen new talent come on board with eleven graduates in 2020 and thirteen due to complete in 2021. A new ‘A to B’ programme due to launch in 2021 will support the progression of ‘A’ License Mechanics or Technicians to highly qualified ‘B’ License Engineers. This too, will be funded through apprenticeship levy funds at no extra cost.
In addition to establishing funding for training from existing sources, Carbon60 has delivered hard savings of £250,000 for BA through the new training initiatives, with de-skilling alone saving £150,000 through reduced contractor pay rates.
50 aviation engineers have already undertaken contractor upskilling, which was delivered through bonded training where Carbon60 funded the cost of the training courses with the contractors paying fees back over a 12-week period of employment. This meant BA was able to access the skills it required with no training cost outlay. The contractors were able to increase their employability and earning potential, while Carbon60 was able to plug a mission critical skills shortage. Acting as a training broker, Carbon60 also secured £250,000 extra income for BA through selling empty seats in their Aircraft Type training courses.
- Richard Kinnell, Business Services Manager, British Airways Engineering