Pictured: Staff from companies including AIR FRANCE KLM MARTINAIR Cargo, Jan De Rijk Logistics, Tosoh Corporation, Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, Agility, and Swissport took part in TIACA’s first Air Cargo Supply Chain Internship program last year, backed by Air Cargo Netherlands.
It may pain the industry to admit it, but air cargo is not ‘sexy’. Insiders know that the ever-changing supply chains and markets make it one of the most vibrant industries to work in, but attracting and keeping people is not easy. Play ping pong and lounge about on bean bags all day in Silicon Valley or get a job at the business end of an aeroplane?
Sebastiaan Scholte, Chair of TIACA, admits this: “Tech companies get so many applications, but unfortunately we cannot choose from so many people, and our pay levels are not at the same level. Young people nowadays don’t stay in the same company for 40 years, and work-life balance is more important so we have to make the industry more attractive.”
TIACA has long recognised the problem and has been initiated some of the best schemes in the industry to address it. Basically, it’s a question of training, to inform participants about the industry and where they fit into the bigger picture of air cargo, and education, on how the industry is changing and the kind of opportunities available for the switched-on air cargo professional.
“There’s no ‘air cargo university’ and people come into the industry from all kinds of backgrounds, but they are not specifically trained in air cargo,” explains Sebastiaan.
Charles Edwards, long-time member of TIACA’s Education Committee, concurs: “Technical training – how to complete a form, load an aircraft – is widely available. The real challenge is the broader picture… how to take basic skill sets and apply them to air cargo.”
The lack of specific training – from people entering the industry at the bottom and not knowing, beyond their own job duties, where they fit in to the supply chain, to aspiring young managers lacking the industry knowledge to carve out a career path in air cargo – has been the target of TIACA’s training initiatives.
Sebastiaan was deeply involved in the first Air Cargo Supply Chain Internship which took place in early 2017. The week-long course, launched by TIACA, with the help of Air Cargo Netherlands, was intended to bring together different people from across the industry to interact and explain the roles their companies played in the supply chain.
Interns from Air France KLM Martinair Cargo, Jan De Rijk Logistics, Tosoh Corporation, Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, Agility, and Swissport visited each other’s sites and each intern would lead a tour and present their company to their co-students.
“What it did was show the participants how the supply chain interlinked and gave them a better understanding of it. Also, presenting the company was rewarding for the individual, giving them a boost in their confidence,” said Sebastiaan.
The latest internship programme is to be held this October, in Toronto, Canada, with Air Canada bringing together interns from local logistics companies. The experience will feed into the panel discussion on training at the TIACA Air Cargo Forum held in the same city in the middle of the month.
Tim Strauss, Vice President, Air Canada Cargo, and the new chair of TIACA’s Education Committee, said: “Innovative programs like these are necessary to ensure the supply chain industry attracts the talent it needs to continue thriving.”
Much of the value of the programme resides in the personal contact, increasingly rare between companies as face-to-face relationships are replaced by colder electronic equivalents.
“When we organise training or internship programmes, it exposes people to each other and the understanding that a decision by someone in company A could give someone a bad day in company B. We are too ‘siloed’ – we are terrible compared to trucking,” said Charles.
TIACA has also rolled out the Air Cargo Professional Development (ACPD) programme, a high-intensity 3-and-a-half-day course aimed at increasing managerial understanding of the supply chain and air cargo’s place within it, and understanding the dynamics and changes within the air cargo industry. It also aims to hone basic managerial skills and provide a networking opportunity for participants.
Charles says the success of ACPD can be measured not only in the positive feedback of course attendees but also in the ongoing commitment of major firms such as Air Canada, Hawaiian Airlines, Southwest Airlines and ALG.
The course kicks off with the air cargo and supply chain big picture – and students are always surprised to find out something, e.g. how little air cargo actually goes on planes, and then moves into the soft skills such as competitive analysis, financial analysis, compliance, leadership skills, revenue management and product portfolio management.
Students then break into teams to work on case studies, which they present and are critiqued by the group. It’s hard work “and there are no wallflowers,” says Charles.
One of the most important lessons, and valuable for students and the companies they work for, is the explanation of how the supply chain is changing. When once it was the producer that was pushing business, it is now the business consumer pulling it, in the same way that amazon-style deliveries are disrupting the consumer world. “That disruption of the supply chain is becoming the new norm,” says Charles, “so we try to get it into the minds of students that it is a huge opportunity.”
One student did indeed take the idea on board and, as a result, was able to promote a solution to a customer, reconfiguring the previous service offered to deliver bread, so it is now baked, packed and flown ready to go on the shelf in each shop, mimicking consumer-type services, but clearly not one that those kinds of services can deliver.
Those people most involved in TIACA training understand the air cargo business and what needs to happen.
“This industry is beautiful, and global, but traditional. We have such a wealth of knowledge, why not share it? TIACA is the organisation to represent the whole supply chain without the profit motive, so it is the organisation to facilitate this,” says Sebastiaan.
“I love this industry, but it’s got to change,” says Charles. Food for thought for the upcoming Air Cargo Forum.