Pandemic Accelerates Move Toward Digital Training Methods

 - July 9, 2021, 1:17 PM

The pandemic has prompted most organizations across the aviation industry to shift their staff learning and development courses away from the conventional classroom to digital methods, a trend that looks likely to continue and expand post-Covid, International Air Transport Association (IATA) research found.

The survey of some 800 human resources executives also uncovered that the Covid-19 crisis resulted in “severe” budget cuts for training in almost every business in the sector, IATA interim vice president of commercial products and services Frédéric Leger said during a July 8 media briefing. No fewer than 70 percent of the respondents reported that their organizations had removed or cut in half training budgets, and 75 percent said their companies had canceled or postponed all classroom training until further notice. Learning and development budgets saw cuts globally; however, organizations in the Middle East and the Americas were least likely to report complete removal of budgets. The cuts have proved particularly deep in organizations with fewer than 50 employees.

Eleven percent of respondents confirmed they do not provide skills-development programs to employees. “Training is in limbo,” noted Leger, as he stressed the need for “right-skilling” new hires and employees returning to work after a long absence to allow them to perform additional or new tasks and multitask.

The survey shows that digital methods such as e-learning, virtual classroom learning, webinars, and virtual reality training will become the preferred format. Although considered important across industries, e-learning will play the biggest role in recovery plans for airports, 88 percent of which ranked e-learning as the first or second most important training method for recovery. Ground handlers predict that they will increase the proportion of training delivered using virtual reality technology. Face-to-face will remain a critical learning method for specific training related to practical skills where knowledge and attitude matter, such as shipping lithium batteries by air.

Training during the pandemic and the shift to a virtual format came with regulatory challenges, Leger asserted. IATA, which trained 73,000 professionals in 2020, converted most of its training to a virtual environment in a short timeframe to ensure that people’s training records met the regulatory requirements. “It is true that we have done a lot of advocacy work with regulators to explain to them that good virtual training, with real-time interaction with the trainer, could be as efficient as face-to-face training,” Leger said. “They have accepted that.”