Airside talks to global handler Worldwide Flight Services (WFS) about how it trains its ramp handlers. Yann Le Tonqueze, managing director of its Airport College, offers his thoughts
Clearly, ramp training is a critical issue and always has been, but do you think that there is a greater emphasis on training in relation to safe and efficient ramp operations today than there has been in the past?
Indeed there is. At WFS, safety and security is our number one priority and training is a vital part of this to ensure our staff understand and strictly follow every correct process and procedure, while remaining highly vigilant and aware at all times to what is happening on the ramp.
Our training commitment has certainly developed over the last decade and continues to do so. For us, there is absolutely no compromise on safety. Training is not only essential to ensure effective safety and security, it is also important to our success as a growing business.
Worldwide Flight Services’ Airport College provides training for other companies as well as for the handler’s own employees. In 2017, it was recognised as one of the world’s top five aviation training providers by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in its list of Premier Circle Members. We were one of only two training providers in Europe to be awarded Premier Circle status by IATA last year out of the network of 450 member institutes in over 90 countries that are authorised IATA training partners, including universities.
Our Airport College was established in 2000 to provide training for our own employees to meet mandatory aviation industry requirements. However, we soon identified a high level of demand from other companies requiring professional training services for their cargo and ground handling personnel. Today, the Airport College incorporates a simulated airport terminal boarding area in Orly, Paris, to train students in passenger services as well as a facility to teach ULD [unit load device] handling at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport.
How does training help WFS to minimise risk of injury to its people and damage to equipment?
It is essential to ensure the safety of our own employees working on the ramp as well as anyone who is working alongside them. The key is awareness: awareness of the processes and procedures they must follow as well as awareness of the types of safety issues that can occur in a busy, time-sensitive airport ramp environment. Using all our knowledge and experience gained over many years of working at the world’s busiest airports, our training ensures that the more aware our staff are, the better they will react to situations.
Training clearly also helps to maximise a handler’s efficiency, and so profitability as well.
How does WFS go about choosing what sorts of training to undertake, and how does it structure its ramp training programmes? Is all of your training undertaken in-house and managed by yourselves?
Our training programme is closely aligned to the work of WFS’s Security Safety Compliance teams and WFS’s training facilities work hand in hand with Operations. Our training is based on four pillars: classroom training, practical training, e-learning and on-job training.
Clearly, we are working in an industry where safety and security are vital to ensure the wellbeing of every stakeholder and their customers. It is a great responsibility for everyone. Working in a safe and secure environment most certainly increases productivity and efficiency, while having a reputation as a company with a proven and respected track record for safety and security also makes us a preferred partner for over 300 airlines globally.
Do you standardise your training across all your stations, or does the degree and type of training undertaken by employees depend on where they work as well as their job role?
The standardisation of our training is in progress. It’s one of our objectives based on the four pillars previously mentioned and will take into account the cultural and language requirements that an international group like WFS has to manage. Currently, we employ over 22,800 people at 198 airports in 23 countries on five continents and we handle some 6,300,000 tonnes of cargo a year.
How will the ramp of the future differ from that of today, and how will that affect how a handler goes about the provision of ramp training?
With procedures such as the ‘no touch’ requirement for the B787 ‘Dreamliner’, just for example, it becomes critical to make sure that our people perform their duties correctly and strictly in accordance with our safety and security procedures. The ramp of the future also requires training of the future so – for instance – we’re working on the development of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) solutions as part of our training evolution.
The best way to learn is through experience. Training should be something you want to go to, it should be pleasant, and our teams should feel free to talk and ask questions about their routines. Training is the best place to be heard and the feedback we receive helps to improve our procedures. It is important to deliver training is a way and style that makes it memorable for each person and equips them most effectively to do their jobs.