The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP) report has repeatedly identified an inability of some States to recruit, train and retain qualified and experienced technical personnel. This means that some States are not sufficiently resourced to effectively perform all necessary regulatory certification, surveillance and enforcement activities.
The lack of, or insufficient number of qualified inspectors, remains the main obstacle to the implementation of an effective State safety oversight system and is often the root cause of situations leading to the identification of Significant Safety Concerns (SSC) in the States by ICAO.  This is further exasperated by several influencing factors on the regulatory environment including rapid growth of the industry, emerging technologies, emerging business models and an increasing trend towards risk and performance-based surveillance.
So how can States overcome this challenge?

Drawing on the ICAO recommendations for State system and functions and Qualified technical personnel in the UK CAA, we are developing comprehensive process including policies and procedures comprising of initial training (competence in acquisition), recurrent training (competence in application) and continuous assessment to ensure the skills and competencies of our inspecting staff remain current with international aviation regulatory standards and relevant to industry needs.  In this article, we share some of the initiatives we found useful.

CAA Needs and Staff Requirement Assessment

Oversight by each National Aviation Authority (NAA) varies across States. It is therefore important that the NAA assess its own needs and identifies the resource required to effectively oversee its regulated industry taking into consideration all domains. As required by ICAO, States must establish a mechanism to ensure that each safety oversight authority has sufficient personnel to meet its respective national and international obligations. If the NAA does not have the required number of competent inspectors, it can either re-train existing staff or recruit new staff externally.

Recruitment Process

The objective of the recruitment process must be defined. The job description of an inspector should be clearly described including required qualification, experience, skills, competencies and behavioural characteristics. It is recommended that States use the competency framework described in the ICAO CASI Manual 10070 and adapt the competency model to suit their context.

A competency reflects the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to perform a job effectively.  A competency framework describes in behavioural terms how these three elements should be best applied.  Competencies have a direct impact on how well an Aviation Inspector performs.

Initial and Recurrent Training

Training of Regulatory Inspectors is core to the ICAO framework, a real focus of audit and protocol questions, cross cutting all safety areas. It represents a true priority for investment by the NAA.  It requires a structured approach from a deep understanding of the methodologies for calculating the number of personnel required for regulatory activities and oversight, developing and maintaining an effective Training Policy, records management (including theory and on-the job training), training needs analysis, training plans and evaluation of training effectiveness to assure ongoing and evolving competencies. Each new staff member should complete initial Inspector role related training and have a sound understanding of what is required of them. Ongoing training should be available for all inspecting staff, and management should be able to track the training progress of inspectors via individual records.  It is very important that both, the initial and recurrent training are regularly reviewed by competent senior management to ensure up to date regulatory requirements are met by the regulated industry.

Ongoing Assessment

In addition to training, it is recommended that the NAA assess its inspecting staff on a regular basis to ensure that the quality of oversight continues to meet regulatory safety needs. The assessment should be guided by a competency assessment procedure and carried out by an assessor (a person acceptable to the NAA to make judgement about performance against specific criteria).  The assessment process/ procedures should recognise different competency requirements which are determined by the primary tasks conducted by inspectors, i.e. audit, inspection, desk top review. It is important that assessed staff are provided with assessment results to support their ongoing development.

Retention Plan

It is essential that a good retention plan is put in place to minimise staff losses. ICAO requires States not only to demonstrate that they are able to attract and recruit sufficient qualified/experienced technical staff, but also that they are able to retain them.  Staff should be aware of their career progression opportunities. Appropriate motivation and recognition rewards should be implemented and used.

Robust recruitment policies and procedures are paramount when selecting inspecting staff, as are  sound initial/recurrent training, assessment and continuing professional development (CPD) processes, as part of the ongoing Maintenance of Competence (MoC) Scheme.

If you have any questions or wish to discuss how we can support your organisation’s inspector training programme, please contact us.

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