Role of online training in tackling aviation industry’s workforce issues

During the outbreak of a pandemic, many aviation professionals and those in training have found themselves under the lockdown which sets the new pace for development and education. However, this situation poses both challenges and opportunities – while practical courses are on hold, there’s a growing interest in online education which often was underestimated.

Kerstin Kiigemaa, HR Operations Lead at Magnetic MRO and Kristiin Koll, Training Coordinator at Magnetic MRO Training,  shared their insights on the current state of the workforce in the aviation sector and the importance of remote education.

What is the state of the workforce in the aviation sector at the moment?

Kerstin Kiigemaa: In general, it is not news that aircraft maintenance technicians are projected to be a scarce resource in the coming years. Studies have shown that by 2037, the MRO industry will require 635.000 new maintenance technicians.

This demand is caused by the ageing workforce in the aviation sector and by the fact that more than 10.000 new aircraft are expected to enter into service by 2027.

Also, some research has shown that up to 30% of those who finish an aviation maintenance training course end up working in another industry due to the fact that development in the aviation sector takes time and not all millennials have the patience and determination to keep carrying on.

However, if we look what’s happening in the aviation sector today, during this pandemic of COVID-19, then the above-described status has bit slowed down. In March 2020, commercial flights have dropped by 55% compared to 2019, and we already see many operators going into stress. Nevertheless, there is still work in the aviation sector as even when thousands of aircraft being grounded, the steal-birds still need daily maintenance and keeping them ready to fly when it’s time.

How can both online and practical/theoretical courses shift the career path for those who want to pursue their career in the aviation sector?

Kerstin Kiigemaa: Online and practical/theoretical courses good combination for people who are obtaining the specialization in the aviation sector as their second qualification. This gives enough flexibility to combine studies with everyday life. Technology is developing in minutes, so it’s only right to use all technology wonders also in learning activities. However, as most of the technical roles in aviation do also require a hand-capabilities, the practical courses will stay.

A good example on how to combine the online and practical learning is Magnetic MRO Vocational A-category Apprenticeship program which we have kicked off 3rd year in a row together with Estonian Aviation Academy. The group is taking their theoretical lectures through Zoom environment and gain their practical, on the job experience in our hangars and workshops.

Kristiin Koll: Online courses were popular before the virus, but during this crisis situation the popularity has grown so much as many people are staying home and have more time to focus on their development. Moreover, companies see it also as an opportunity to improve their staff.

What are the main advantages of online courses?

Kristiin Koll: During this crisis lot of people have forced to stay home. In the worst case, they have lost their job, which means they are looking for new opportunities. Training, in general, expand skills and provide knowledge – in other words, constant development is happening. It is really important that during these hard and unprecedented times people continue to improve themselves by learning new things. Online Training is a good opportunity to do it.

As its main advantages I’d outline:

Flexible schedule – you can do whenever – online training is always available, you can start whenever, pause whenever. In general, you can take your time. Maybe even take it slower to really learn.

Flexible location – you can do wherever. You only need a computer and Internet connection. Just need to log in to our Learning Management System (LMS), open the course and start learning.

Lower costs – no travel costs etc.

Career advancement opportunities.

And how online courses are valued by human resources specialists?

Kerstin Kiigemaa: One of the perks of using online learning is that it gives you more flexibility. By studying online, people can choose their own learning environment that works best for their needs: be it the bedroom, study, the café across the street, or local gym. Taking an online course also means that one doesn’t have to commute to class, which means less time spent on travels and you are able to join the courses in whichever country or even continent.

From the HR professional viewpoint, studying online requires more self-motivation and time-management skills, because one will spend a lot of time on their own without someone physically close to keep them focused on deadlines. Thus, people taking and passing successfully online courses, have not only obtained the topic but also have become more self-motivated, a trait that will make a person stand out in the workplace and beyond.

How the COVID-19 outbreak changed aviation training landscape?

Kristiin Koll: COVID-19 has affected aviation training landscape as much it has affected aviation in general. For everybody, this is a new and hard situation where only the strongest and smartest business units stay alive. Unfortunately, for training landscape the only income is people, but if people cannot travel and take part in the training, then we lose that income. This is the reason why Magnetic MRO Training is starting to focus on more online training. If people can not come to us, we will come to them.

Do you see the common tendency what skills candidates lack the most often?

Kerstin Kiigemaa: It’s hard to bring out a common tendency because it really depends on the positions to which candidates are applying to. While technical skills will vary by position and field, there are some universal hard and soft skills that everyone needs have to succeed in their roles. While soft skills are less measurable, they’re just as vital for career success. Regardless of the positions, there are some soft skills which I would like to bring out to succeed in fast-paced, 24/7 working, extremely challenging – in the world of aviation.

Good communication skills encourage better understanding, helps us resolve conflicts, inspires trust and respect and allows creative ideas to flourish.

Positive & can-do attitude – employers want that employees can stay positive even in stressful and challenging situations and a “can do” attitude that is flexible, dedicated, and willing to contribute extra effort to get the job done in the face of challenges.

Teamwork – people that are cooperative and work well with others.

Problem-solving skills – in a fast-paced environment, people need to be able to work independently and think critically to find solutions to everyday obstacles.