“… what would it be?” was CargoForwarder Global’s final question to its panelists, late afternoon on 09NOV22, at the TIACA air cargo forum in Miami. The “Air Cargo – From Spotlight to Highlight” panel had looked at how the air cargo industry could build on its positive exposure during the pandemic and become an industry of choice for young talents looking to make a career for themselves.
Co-moderating the panel, Heiner Siegmund and I had made sure to include a mixed cross-section of air cargo industry stakeholders, and welcomed Timo Stroh, Head of Global Airfreight and Life
Science & Healthcare at Dachser, Diana Schoeneich, CEO of GEORGI Handling, Guillaume Crozier, SVP of Cargo for dnata, and Kirsten de Bruijn, Executive Vice President Cargo at WestJet, onto
the stage of the Lincoln Room, in order of the air cargo journey from forwarder via road feeder to ground handler and finally onto the airplane. Located in Europe, the Middle East, and North
America, the panelists also provided good regional diversity, too.
Does the C in TIACA stand for Cocktail?
Inspired by the many extra-curricular cocktail events taking place at various TIACA ACF booths and hotel venues over the three days of the conference, I wondered out loud as to whether the C in TIACA in fact stood for Cocktail, and then wanted to know from the panelists at the end of our avid, hour-long discussion: “If air cargo were a Cocktail, what would it be?” Expecting a couple of usual contenders to do with Beaches and Screwdrivers, or at least a B52 in keeping with the aviation theme, it was fascinating to see how each panelist’s completely different answer reflected what they had contributed to the overall panel discussion.
Straight Vodka Tonic
Kirsten de Bruijn had been straight out and up front from the start: “I’ll tell you: WestJet Cargo has all its positions filled!” An enviable situation in an industry that has certain sectors crying out for personnel, suffering under the strain of too few staff and an ever-increasing workload. Acquiring the right staff is all about leadership and networks, de Bruijn underlined. “I know how to steal people!” she exclaimed with a wry smile, granting that all companies were “fishing in the same pool, however.” Yet, her point follows the known quote that “people don’t leave bad jobs, they leave bad leaders,” and therefore good – or even great - leaders are natural magnets for equally great candidates. That said, the panel agreed that airlines generally have it easier than ground handlers or forwarders, when it comes to recruiting, given that there tends to be more glamour associated with aviation than with warehousing.
Nevertheless, representing ground handlers, and because he himself does not drink, Guillaume Crozier opted for “Sparkling Water” – a perfect analogy to what he had been saying about brands and image, as well as a subconscious link to the many blue, metal dnata water bottles that have been present at every conference attended by CFG this year, including this Miami event. dnata enjoys a good – sparkling - image, is active on a social responsibility level (notably the pink push-back tractor to support Breast Cancer Awareness, recently), and is happy to experiment with digitalization and innovation (DaViD, the Robot Receptionist over in London, being a case in point. CFG reported). These are all pull-points when it comes to sourcing candidates, though he conceded that hiring was easier over in the Middle East, than it was in the “tricky region”, meaning Europe with its many languages, differing regulations, unions, and the like. Attracting talent should start in universities or even earlier, Crozier advised. Pre-drinking age, in fact, so Sparkling Water fits yet again.
For Diana Schoeneich, air cargo is a Tequila Sunrise, and this reflected her positive attitude and creativity in sourcing new staff, despite her location in Crozier’s “tricky region”. With the upheaval caused by the pandemic, GEORGI Handling was reaching out to different sectors to find likely candidates. Construction, for instance, was a good potential source, as “working in a covered warehouse is preferable to being subjected to all kinds of weather,” she pointed out. Timo Stroh added that Gastronomy and Retail were also alternative sources. For Schoeneich, additional important factors were ensuring and investing in proper training and skills enhancement, as well as considering looking further afield for potential candidates.
A cocktail in three parts
Timo Stroh created a signature cocktail that illustrates the multifaceted, rich, and complex construction that is our air cargo industry. Reflecting his many points ranging from correct job descriptions through to fair pay, and a realistic consideration of working conditions, to name just a few, his air cargo cocktail “consists of 3 parts:
- light Saint Pellegrino water comparable to clear processes and the routine handling of crises, by the forwarders,
- colored Aperol describing the complexity and the extremely exciting and interesting air freight business and its industry,
- and finally, a shot of sparkling Prosecco as a sign of a dynamic and agile airfreight market where you can feel how system-relevant our industry is.”
All panelists were in agreement that air cargo is an industry with a clear future, one that is not only ever-increasing in importance, but is also currently undergoing huge changes with regard to innovation, digitalization, and sustainability.
Air cargo is a people industry that will remain a people industry, regardless of all the upcoming automation. And one that will always enjoy a good drink together – with or without alcohol.
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