Jenna Beard, sales manager at VHR, an international technical recruitment organisation providing solutions to the Aerospace & Aviation, F1 & Automotive, Engineering & Defence and Marine industries around the world, has agreed to be interviewed by us to talk about the biggest challenges and little-known aspects of being a manager in the aviation industry.
The aviation sector in Switzerland is well-established and has been growing steadily for the past few years as frequency of passengers in the biggest and most important Swiss airports as the Geneva airport, the EuroAirport of Basel, or Zurich Airport is rising more and more. Switzerland’s location in the heart of Europe and the fact that the nation is host of several aircraft financiers paired with such a stable and reliable political and legal landscape, are key factors in providing a level playing field and a safe environment to the players in the aviation industry. In fact, a large number of companies are operating within the Swiss borders in the aerospace industry, which accounts for a good pool of jobs available for highly skilled professionals. Switzerland is very much at the centre of the renaissance of the aviation industry for all the reasons we have listed, but in such a globalised world as the one we live in today, it’s important also to acknowledge the current worldwide climate and to know who the players in the exciting aviation industry are, what their life is like, and what the challenges of their profession are.
Jenna has many years working in the aviation recruitment sector, a strong international network and a breadth of sector-specific knowledge which she shared with us.
Here’s how our conversation went:
Accurity: Tell me a little bit about your background and how you started working for your present company.
Jenna Beard: I have been working in the aviation recruitment field forever – started my career for a small privately owned company then left there to join a big PLC and now I’m back working for a smaller privately owned company again.The reason I started working at VHR was a case of good timing I bumped into the CEO at an aviation networking event.
He mentioned he had substantial growth plans and was looking for someone to build and take to market the types of programmes that I sold and at the time I had frustrations related to working for a big PLC.
Accurity: You manage people in charge of recruitment in the aviation Industry. What would you say is the main difference between recruiting in this particular field and any other field?
JB: The only key difference is compliance. Within the Aviation world you have to make sure that the candidates you are working with have all the necessary certificates or documentation to comply with the strict regulations in place to work with live aircraft.
VHR’s key differentiator is that we are a truly global business. Generally, our consultants are all native foreign language speakers, which means they are able to build up a better rapport with our customers in the regions they come from, as well as have a larger reach to candidates that other agencies don’t have access to. International travel is also encouraged to meet face to face with our clients all over the world.
Accurity: With your experience managing people, what would you say are the challenges and the trickiest aspects of the process of recruiting people for the aviation industry?
JB: I would say that the biggest single issue for the aviation industry has always been the global skills shortage; there are more and more aeroplanes flying but less and less engineers to support those aircraft. In the UK this is coupled with IR35 changes and the potential threat of Brexit.
With regard to recruitment generally when humans are your “product” you may have done all your due diligence and calculated every single aspect of the process, something unpredictable can derail the whole process in a split second and you are back to square one.
Accurity: You’ve talked about a shortage of aviation technicians as a big global issue in the industry at the moment. What could help solving this issue? And could you share a brief anecdote that illustrates this issue?
JB: Sure, at the moment education on the subject is a big priority. I have three nephews and if I asked them what they would like to be when they grow up, they almost certainly wouldn’t say they’d enjoy being an engineer. They would hardly even know what an engineer is. There has been some work done to target school-age children, but this is something that needs to be done more and more at a global level.
The big aviation companies need to be fully involved in this. Over the last few years there has been a definite realisation of the issues faced with skills shortages and we have seen the reintroduction of lots of different types of apprenticeship programmes but I would still argue that not enough is being done to target children at a young enough age to consider engineering as a career.
The aviation industry is exciting! Just take a look at Lilium, for instance. This Germany-based company is developing an on-demand air taxi service that is powered by an all-electric, vertical take-off and landing jet. This has the potential to revolutionise air travel, and the skill shortage is doing nothing but slowing this exciting and potentially life-changing process down.
Accurity: Thank you, Jenna. This was indeed very interesting. Finally, is there any little-known aspect of the aviation industry that really struck you as peculiar and that you didn’t expect when you started working in the industry?
JB: Well, I would say that what really surprised me when I first joined the aviation industry, is how close-knit globally the industry is! Whenever we meet up for conferences or general meetings, it feels like seeing old friends again.
The industry is dominated by a few major players. And is still very male-dominated. But I’ve always felt at ease and built professional relationships that I now consider very good friends. I wouldn’t trade it for anything else in the world!
Founded in 1998, Accurity GmbH has worked with over 400 companies and served more than 3’000 contractors. Accurity is especially happy to manage contractors for the aviation industry to minimise uncertainty and overhead. We help making Switzerland easy for them!