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Closing the Skill Gap: When Management Meets Aviation Security

Most aviation professionals are either familiar with the management side of the business or the aviation security side of the business, but rarely are these skills found together.
August 16, 2019
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JMEC_SkillGap

As the civil aviation industry continues its rapid growth, and as new technology makes its way onto the market, aviation security is of increasingly crucial importance. However, although significant focus is placed on this area, there tends to be a skill gap where aviation security expertise meets management expertise. While there are many individuals who are experienced and skilled in one area or the other, it is rare to find those who can easily maneuver between both. In addition, the two skills do not tend to grow and improve at the same rate. Management skills often remain at the same level as when the individual joined the industry, while security knowledge tends to be improved and adapted consistently over time.

Tara Devine Tara Devine

In addition to providing high-level development in aviation security, the Aviation Security Professional Management Course (AVSEC PMC)  provides industry professionals with a means to close the skill gap between aviation security and management competencies. Offered in collaboration between the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the John Molson Executive Centre (JMEC), the AVSEC PMC has provided civil aviation security development since 2004. 

“I think the program benefits people because it gives them two completely different elements of training. It gives the AVSEC portion, but it also gives them the management tools,” says Tara Devine, who completed the program in 2007, and is currently an instructor for the aviation security portion of the program.

I find everybody, even some of the most experienced people that go into the course thinking that they know everything about security or management comes away learning something

– Brian Legge, Instructor

The AVSEC PMC is split into an aviation security section and a management section, and presents all information in the context of a civil aviation environment. It is a rigorous, blended learning program that takes place over three months, and consists of a one-week face-to-face session at both the beginning and end of about two and a half months of online learning. The course is unique in its offering, and is currently the only of its kind that introduces aviation security and management competencies together in a civil aviation context.

AVSEC face-to-face 1 – Port of Spain The first face-to-face of the 2019 AVSEC Port of Spain–Montreal session. Instructors: Luca Boccadoro (back left) and Jean-Marc Trottier (back right)

The AVSEC PMC is designed in such a way that no participant leaves empty handed when it comes to knowledge gained, no matter where their primary expertise lies. Each course has two instructors: a management expert who understands AVSEC, and an AVSEC expert who understands the management principles covered in the course. “I find everybody, even some of the most experienced people that go into the course thinking that they know everything about security or management comes away learning something,” says Brian Legge, who took the program in 2017, and now instructs the management portion.

[The program] is not about aviation security, but rather about implementing aviation security. AVSEC is about people preventing people from causing harm to people. It is not about fences and road blocks.

– Jean-Marc Trottier, Instructor

Jean-Marc Trottier Jean-Marc Trottier

The complex part about this program, however, is that it is extremely important to teach the concepts, rather than to introduce hard facts for memorization. “Security is not about doing security the same way throughout all the regions, all the countries, all the airports,” says Luca Boccadoro, who completed the program in 2006, and who now instructs the aviation security portion of the program. It is crucial that participants gain a complete understanding of the concepts behind why and how things are done, so that they are then able to implement them in a way that makes sense in their individual organizations.  “[The program] is not about aviation security, but rather about implementing aviation security,” says Jean-Marc Trottier, a long-time instructor of the program. “AVSEC is about people preventing people from causing harm to people. It is not about fences and road blocks.”

I was looking to get in touch with other folks across the world to share their experience and see how they do things and make some contacts as well

– Bruno Thuot, participant

Bruno Thuot Bruno Thuot

Bruno Thuot, director of aircraft maintenance for the RCMP Air Services completed the AVSEC PMC in 2017. He went into the program with two expectations. The more obvious one was to acquire and enhance his expertise in aviation security, and the other was to acquire a network of professional contacts. “I was looking to get in touch with other folks across the world to share their experience and see how they do things and make some contacts as well,” he says, adding that ultimately, his goal was achieved.

As an instructor, Brian Legge agrees that networking is a major feature of the program: “One of the biggest things I think people get out of this course is actually not taught in the course itself, rather it’s the connections that you make and the access you earn to the AVSEC community once you finish the course.” In addition to the direct contacts that each participant gets with his or her course colleagues, everybody who successfully completes the course also has access to an AVSEC PMC forum, which is used to keep in touch, communicate about issues, trends, and questions regarding the industry, and to foster even more interconnectivity in the industry.

A refined itinerary

Walter D. Parks III Walter D. Parks III

Recently, the AVSEC PMC was updated, or as ICAO’s AVSEC Officer, Walter D. Parks III says, refreshed. “I use the word refreshed because it wasn’t really just an update moving from one amendment to the next amendment,” he says. “It’s a refreshed concept.” As a program that has become a preferred and sometimes mandatory requirement for management-level employees involved in AVSEC, it is necessary that the program remains relevant to the industry and its best practices. As such, the refresh of the program was designed to be more reflective of current aviation security or AVSEC trends and practices, as well as incorporating the best academic management practices. To top it all off, the program’s online resources were given a fresh look.

A new element that has been included in the program is the Global Aviation Security Plan (GASeP), an initiative introduced by ICAO in 2017. The goal of this initiative, as outlined on ICAO’s website, is to “address the needs of States and industry in guiding all aviation security enhancement efforts through a set of internationally agreed priority actions, tasks and targets.”

By the end of the course, graduates of the AVSEC PMC are intended to have developed their management skills to at least the mid-management level, and be experts in AVSEC concepts. “This is not just one of those courses that you take and you do the course, you have a piece of paper and that’s it,” says Luca Boccadoro.  “No, at the end of this course, you feel you have achieved something great, because of the knowledge that has been acquired throughout the journey, because of the intensity of the work, and because of how the security and the management principles that are expressed throughout the course actually change the way a person works in their future as a professional.”


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