Airport authority sees hiring take off

GTAA uses job fairs to find employees for in-house de-icing operations
By Sarah Dobson
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 02/05/2016

For a busy airport like Toronto Pearson, making sure the operations run smoothly and safely — and keep customers happy — is a top priority. And that includes the key task of de-icing planes during the colder months to remove ice and snow.

For many years, the de-icing service was handled by a third-party provider subcontracted by the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA), the private company that operates Toronto Pearson. 

But due to a change in the business model, the decision was made in early 2015 that de-icing services would be performed directly by the GTAA.  

The move was part of a new strategy by the company, according to Roliza Mascarenhas, recruiter at GTAA.

“We had a new vision and our vision was to become the best airport in the world,” she says. “The de-icing service has a huge impact on… experience, satisfaction… (and) by managing the service internally, it allowed us to ensure the level of safety and efficiency was higher, to help us reach our goals.”

But the GTAA had to move quickly when it came to staffing for 170 positions so the de-icing services would be up and running before the winter. With an end goal of Oct. 1, the company wanted everyone hired, onboarded and trained, so human resources worked backwards from that date, says Mascarenhas.

The first round of recruitment was targeted at employees with multiple seasons of experience with a large-scope operation, including those who had worked for the former service provider.

The GTAA was looking for people who had worked outdoors, possessed skills in a maintenance kind of environment, were experienced with heavy equipment and comfortable working at elevated heights. The employees would also be driving trucks to spray the de-icing fluid.

Select candidates were invited to a job fair held at the airport in May. People who responded were scheduled for interviews at the job fair, meeting with HR and business services. Each interview lasted for about half-an-hour and candidates were also given the opportunity to watch a video or read posters and leaflets about the de-icing operation, says Mascarenhas.

After the first round of recruitment, there were still several positions pending so a second job fair was held in July. A de-icing truck was stationed at the job fair location to give recruits a better idea of what the job entailed.

Training for all

After the 170  people were hired, the training began.

“We had a robust six weeks of training to ensure that everyone was ready and on the ground live before Oct. 1,” says Mascarenhas. 

“Some people came with experience… but everyone was treated on the same level… We said, ‘You know what,  it’s the GTAA, we want to do this right, we want to do this differently and we want to reach our goal to be the best airport,’ so everyone was in the training for about six weeks.”

The training included regulatory courses, mandatory courses around culture and behaviour, technical training along with competency-based training, so basically the culture of fit. All of the employees also required an airside legal operator’s permit that could be attained in-house at Toronto Pearson. 

“Some people who work at the airport could have the licence already but the majority, when you hire someone without aviation experience, they have to go through the entire process,” she says.

The GTAA also had to hire managers and supervisors and this was done through the normal recruitment process. That meant posting the jobs externally, inviting internal applicants, promoting the openings on social media and with targeted associations, reviewing resumés, conducting phone screening and testing, and then going through a couple rounds of interviews, says Mascarenhas.

“However, just because we had the tight time line and the goal, everything was fast-tracked.”

In the end, the recruitment was a success, largely because of the team effort involving the human resources and aviation services teams, says Mascarenhas.

“HR was part of all the business meetings, understanding what’s required, the strategy, the structure.”

There was a team effort in HR as well, whether it was recruitment, organizational development, employee services, benefits, medical checks or onboarding. 

And the organization learned a few valuable lessons about how to hire such a large group of people in a limited time-frame, she says, thanks to a dedicated team and strategy.

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