Earlier this year, a London Heathrow International Airport employee – Harry Cooper – became the first person in the UK to be awarded a newly available endorsement for achieving regulatory compliance with European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) regulations: the ‘National Certificate in Airside Operations’, or NCAO
The NCAO was developed as a collaborative programme by People 1st, which describes itself as an “insight-driven performance and talent management expert” that provides tailored solutions and advice to help clients grow performance and talent, and the Aviation Industry Skills Board (AISB), which was formed a decade ago and works with People 1st as part of a working partnership for the UK’s aviation sector. The AISB’s membership includes airlines, airports and ground handling agents, as well as trade associations and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
According to a statement from the partners, employers involved in the country’s aviation industry have been looking for ways to demonstrate competence in areas such as operations, rescue and firefighting, maintenance and management of aerodromes through relevant proficiency checks.
The NCAO was created to meet this need. Those awarded the certificate are deemed to be in compliance with EU Commission Regulation 139/2014 and the UK’s CAA requirements.
Both EU Commission Regulation 139/2014 and the UK CAA require an aerodrome operator to provide a safety training programme that ensures that personnel involved in the operation, rescue and firefighting, maintenance and management of the aerodrome are trained and competent.
The aerodrome operator must ensure that personnel involved in the operation of the aerodrome are adequately trained. This requires that anyone conducting their duties must have demonstrated their competence through proficiency checks.
Gaining the NCAO involves a formalised process assessing the knowledge, skills and experience of individuals working in an airside role, but without a recognised qualification. Competence is demonstrated through a combination of online assessment, individual operational inspection conducted by a quality-assured assessor and certification of professional competence.
Since the launch of the programmme, more than 170 airside operatives from airports across the UK – including Belfast City, Birmingham, Leeds Bradford, Liverpool John Lennon, London Gatwick Airport, London Heathrow Airport, London Luton Airport, London Stansted Airport, London City Airport, Doncaster Sheffield Airport and Hawarden Airport – have registered with the NCAO scheme.
Simon Newbold, airside operations training manager at Heathrow and co-chair of the Airside Special Interest Group of the AISB, observes: “Over 15 airports across the UK have been involved in the development of the National Certificate in Airside Operations, alongside the CAA, supported by People 1st. It is now the established national standard for all airfield operations staff that recognises competence in the workplace and aligns to all UK airports and the apprenticeship standard for airside operatives.”
Julie Blasbery, client relationship manager (aviation) at People 1st, adds: “Having worked with the Aviation Industry Skills Board over the past nine years on many projects for the industry, we are thrilled to see our partnership on the NCAO result in the first candidate achieving the recognition, and also to see so many airports across the UK seeing the value of the certification as a route to demonstrate EASA competence. We look forward to seeing further airside operatives achieve the certification in 2018 and beyond.”
Putting People 1st
Blasbery talked to Airside International about the origins of the programme and expectations for its future development. “As part of a joint collaborative partnership for the aviation sector, the NCAO was developed by People 1st in its ongoing remit of work for the AISB. Since the AISB’s formation in 2007, the role of People 1st has been to facilitate and provide guidance to the board and its formed special interest groups, to expedite the board’s ongoing skills objectives as required for the sector.
“For the NCAO project, People 1st applied a range of skills to plan, manage, design, develop and communicate the effective implementation of NCAO, balancing employer needs with regulatory requirements. People 1st worked closely with the AISB Special Interest Group (SIG) for airside operations, to achieve their aim to create, develop and establish a recognised, accredited and portable certification for all those working in airside operations that would achieve compliance, and raise the level of professional learning and skills standards across UK aerodromes.
“From the SIG industry input, People 1st was able to develop the end-to-end NCAO assessment process, including all NCAO observational documentation, knowledge theory underpinning this, and external assessor procedures, to create the online NCAO assessment platform. This project also required the external liaison with the awarding organisation Occupational Awards Ltd (OAL) for certification of the NCAO.”
Blasbery continues: “People 1st also aligned the NCAO with the recently developed airside operative apprenticeship standard, which was an earlier project it developed and completed with the SIG Airside Operations, and continues to work with the SIG providing administration and guidance with regular reviews of the NCAO to ensure it remains current and effective.”
As to the future, there are big plans for the programme, as Blasbery notes: “There are currently over 170 candidates registered on the NCAO platform, and we are confident that this will increase substantially in 2018. We believe that as more aerodromes become aware of the benefits of the NCAO as a certification developed ‘by industry for industry’, and that not only does it standardise training and competency requirements but also provides aerodromes with the ability to revalidate and maintain their ongoing compliance, NCAO registrations will continue to grow.
“Alongside this, the NCAO will also assist airports with the opportunity for a reduction in training cost to their business as it provides greater transferability across the UK.
“Moving forward, we would like to see the NCAO expanding to provide aerodromes outside of the UK with the same standardisation of airside training and compliance.”
People 1st has many other projects in the pipeline as regards the UK’s airside operations segment. “Following on from the success of the NCAO, we are currently in early stages of discussions with the SIG Airside Operations to assess the requirement for a similar programme to NCAO for Accountable Airside Operations Managers,” Blasbery explains.
Moreover, in order to maximise functional expertise within the sector, the AISB and People 1st continue to form SIGs to bring together key personnel from aviation organisations to give their input into the design and development of training programmes and specific apprenticeship standards.
People 1st facilitates all this ongoing work, Blasbery says, and – based on this approach – is currently facilitating not only the AISB, but five different SIGs – three for airports: aviation airside operations, aviation ground handling and aviation ground handling (security); and two for airlines: cabin crew and pilot.
Following recent government apprenticeship reforms, currently People 1st’s expertise is being been invested by the AISB into facilitating the development and implementation of new apprenticeship standards for the following groups:
Aviation ground operatives
Aviation ground handling specialists
Aviation operations managers
Aviation security specialism
CAA stamp of approval
Tony Heap, aerodrome standardisation lead at the CAA, is a big fan of the NCAO. He comments: “The EU aerodrome regulation (Commission Regulation (EU) No.139/2014) requires aerodrome operators to ensure their staff have demonstrated their capabilities following training and that qualification, training and proficiency checks records are maintained to demonstrate compliance with the requirements. The NCAO provides the system that fully supports the training requirements contained in the aerodrome regulation.”
And Nick Yearwood, policy specialist – aerodromes, at the CAA – tells Airside what it was that made the CAA want to get on-board with the new training standard and certification. “Following a review of our existing regulations, we saw an opportunity to engage with industry to explore how those requirements could link to and align with the developing National Occupational Standards (NOS) for aviation.
“A Special Interest Group was subsequently established to ensure consistent guidance to employers regarding the competence of staff working airside. The Group has continued in various forms since its establishment, finally resulting in the NCAO certification syllabus we see today with People 1st.”
Yearwood is in agreement with his colleague, Heap, as to the relevance and importance of Commission Regulation (EU) No.139/2014. “The introduction of Regulation EU No.139/2014 – ‘the aerodrome regulation’ – placed an obligation on the CAA and aerodrome operators to ensure people were trained and competent to undertake their tasks, as demonstrated.
“Prior to the introduction of the NCAO, all aerodrome personnel were trained to local standards. This led to a variety of competence levels that, while meeting the CAA regulations at the time, had little in the way of a national standard. The EASA aerodrome regulation was developed with the intention of harmonising aerodrome operators’ standards throughout Europe and the NCAO provides the system that fully supports the training requirements contained in the aerodrome regulation and has introduced that standard for training and competence within the UK.”
Looking forward, he sees little likelihood of changes being made to the NCAO any time soon. “The NCAO fulfils the current regulatory requirements and we do not see that changing in the foreseeable future. Regular reviews of the NCAO will be undertaken as the system matures to ensure it remains current and effective,” Yearwood points out.
However, the work of the CAA in this area is by no means done. “The introduction of the aerodrome regulation has placed a number of new requirements on aerodrome operators that enhance an already safe operating environment,” Yearwood says. “We are working with the operators to ensure the processes and procedures are in place to gain the maximum effectiveness from the new requirements.”