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Creating a Sustainable Workforce in the UAE

  • by: Danny Brooks
  • On: 18, Mar 2021
3 min read

In 2009, 3 years after securing a long term partnership with Etihad Airways (UAE’s national airline) there was a shortage of Aircraft Cabin Technicians (ACTs) – a crucial and rare Aviation skillset. Etihad had become the World’s fastest growing airline in part due to prioritising their Cabin to attract travellers across economy, business and first class cabins. Etihad’s problem was that Emirates and Qatar Airways were also prioritising Cabin’s and searching for the same skills. The approach of all 3 airlines had been to hire ever more expensive European cabin technicians. Staff retention became an increasing issue as did cost due to a wage spiral.  

A new approach was required if Etihad were to recruit the amount people that they required. VHR persuaded Etihad to adopt a sustainable approach to their ACT workforce. The aim of VHR’s programme was to:

  1. To create a skilled workforce to solve the initial and future skills shortage
  2. To reduce the associated manpower costs whilst maintaining ethical practices and a quality workforce
  3. To increase worker retention rates
  4. To improve workforce planning and create a talent pool

VHR scoured the world to source workers with excellent English language skills (communication is paramount to Aviation safety) and identified the Philippines, where individuals have excellent English languages skills and which has a large Aerospace industry (resulting from WW2 and American influence). In addition Filipino nationals are culturally comfortable with working overseas for extended periods.

 After securing a source location for skills VHR identified a training provider in the form of Lufthansa Technik Philippines whom had a large facility in Manila.

Etihad and VHR then spent several months designing a training course in conjunction with Lufthansa Technik. The course was designed to take airframe and engine mechanics and to train them into cabin maintenance mechanics on advanced wide body jet aircraft. The 6-week course included 12 modules and exams and practical experience on Etihad seats which were specially shipped to Lufthansa’s facility. Each course was designed to accommodate 25 students.

VHR identified a local recruitment partner (legal requirement in Philippines) to organise a series of recruitment roadshows. Initially 60 candidates were recruited, referenced and put through a medical to ensure they were fit to work and would pass entry requirement to the UAE.

The first course commenced in August 2009 with 25 students graduating in late September 2009. VHR covered all the tuition costs.

In October 2009 VHR deployed the first 25 newly qualified ACTS to Etihad Airways in Abu Dhabi. Each ACT was provided with an initial 3-year contract with VHR, a salary of between 7-10 times the salary they received in Philippines, free good quality accommodation in shared apartments inclusive of bills and Wi-Fi, free transport to/from work. In addition each ACT received an annual leave ticket back to Manila.

VHR partnered Etihad management on performance monitoring and additional training. VHR and Etihad provided continuous professional training throughout the duration of each ACT’s contract with VHR.

To date VHR has run 22 training courses for Etihad training 550 people. This success of this programme was then used as the basis for a similar programmes in Czech Republic and Malta that has trained and employed in excess of 450 workers.

VHR’s sustainable workforce programmes have trained, up-skilled  and secured employment for just over 1,000 aircraft workers for 5 clients in 3 countries since 2009. This represents 9% of all the workers VHR have found employment for since VHR started trading in 2003.  The average worker retention rate for our sustainable programmes is more than 90%.

“VHR’s innovative aircraft cabin technician program has been integral to the success of Etihad Airways Cabin Maintenance Department and the product we offer our guests. I can thoroughly recommend VHR, they provide a quality and professional service and consistently go the extra mile.” - Jeff Wilkinson CEO Etihad Airways Engineering

If you would like more information on how VHR can tailor a sustainable workforce programme for your organisation please contact hello@v-hr.com.

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