So far, staff shortages have only caused temporary hiccups in the handling of cargo shipments at Frankfurt and other major European hubs. But tonnages tend to increase, the workforce is not. Why? Because there are simply too little personnel on the labor market available for ground handling services and the wider aviation industry. At the recent meeting of the German Aviation Alliance (BDL) held in Berlin, cargo experts and panelists called on policymakers to take action fast by changing some immigration and labor laws, this way easing the shortage in personnel to a certain degree. So voiced by Pierre Dominique Pruemm (PDP), Executive Board member for Aviation and Infrastructure at airport operator Fraport AG. We publish his considerations exclusively.
CFG: At the recent BDL event, you addressed the Berlin government to be “bolder, recruit aviation security assistants, pilots and other professional groups." Which regulatory framework must be changed to satisfy this claim?
PDP: Germany is currently struggling with labor shortages. To meet our personnel needs in the long term, we are also recruiting employees in other EU and non-EU countries. However, the existing political framework still imposes major obstacles to this. The new immigration law that the German Bundestag (National Parliament) recently passed is a very good first step, but it doesn’t go far enough. Our industry has not yet made it sufficiently clear that the employment situation in the aviation sector is unique in various ways. Important core functions still can’t be learned within the scope of Germany’s dual system, which combines apprenticeships at a company with attending a vocational school. Examples include pilots, flight controllers, and ground handlers. Yet these professions are well paid, and it's also important for us to be able to offer good future prospects to individuals who want to practice them in Germany. This will only be possible if they can count on being able to stay here on a long-term basis. Limited stays of, for example, just eight months aren’t enough to motivate people to come to us. We also mustn’t forget that as a country we are engaged in a global competition for the world’s best talent.
CFG: How many people are currently employed at the airport and in Frankfurt’s aviation sector?
PDP: Currently the Fraport Group employs permanent around 18,300 people at its Frankfurt site. With a total of about 80,000 workers and more than 500 companies, Frankfurt Airport is Germany’s largest local place of employment.
CFG: How high is the current demand for labor and in which sectors is the shortage of personnel at Frankfurt Airport particularly pressing?
PDP: We are looking for more personnel for a wide range of jobs with greatly varying prerequisites and conditions. Besides additional staff for ground handling activities, we also need people to fill roles in medical and rescue services, IT, and a variety of technical occupations, to cite just a few examples. Our recruitment efforts are producing positive results, especially for ground handling roles.
CFG: The German factor market is largely empty. So where are additional personnel to come from?
PDP: Currently we’re also recruiting in both EU and non-EU countries. If the political situation develops favorably, we will also extend our activities to countries beyond Europe. Meanwhile the competitive situation here is getting steadily more demanding. This is why we, along with many other German companies, see a need to amend the law on the immigration of foreign workers that will offer them real prospects of being able to stay here.
CFG: What welcome package is Fraport putting together to attract applicants and in the best-case scenario also motivate them to stay long-term or even forever?
PDP: We have a considerable need to recruit more ground handling workers and are conducting a variety of activities to get additional personnel on board. New employees that join our FraGround subsidiary receive a welcome bonus of a thousand euros with their first month’s salary. We also offer subsidized accommodations for a limited time to new staff arriving from other countries or elsewhere in Germany at least 100 kilometers from Frankfurt. They can also obtain a driver’s license or attend German language courses during working hours. Overall, we offer our employees quite a few attractive extras such as a free transportation pass that they can use all over Germany, subsidized meals in the on-site cafeterias, and various kinds of support for families and relatives who require nursing care.
CFG: People from 88 nations are employed at Fraport. Which steps does your company take to integrate them?
PDP: We are an international corporate group operating in an internationally oriented industry, and this is also reflected in the composition of our workforce. We are committed to an open corporate culture in which no kind of racism or marginalization is tolerated. We acknowledge and accept the wide range of lifestyles that our diverse employees practice, for example by holding intercultural events such as interfaith ceremonies. At Frankfurt Airport we have installed prayer rooms for people of the Muslim, Jewish, and Christian faiths. New foreign staff can also attend German courses free of charge.
CFG: In view of the age structure, is Germany’s option to either attract significant foreign workforce also for securing the growth of aviation, or is the alternative shrinkage, loss of prosperity, and lowering of the pension level for millions that exit the labor market due to age reasons within the next years?
PDP: From Fraport’s perspective, greater immigration of capable individuals from other countries is essential for lastingly ensuring affluence and prosperity in our country. Without immigration, there will be no way for us to meet the demand for workers, and not only in the aviation sector. In that case the inevitable consequence is a loss of competitiveness.
CFG: Thank you for your input.
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