Rhiannon Chapman, new SBAC personnel chief, says aerospace companies should not dismiss people and skills issues as ‘something for the HR department'

Newly appointed Society of British Aerospace Companies (SBAC) people and skills supremo Rhiannon Chapman is charged with improving the way UK aerospace companies recruit and manage their people.

Her remit in the newly created SBAC role is to examine the personnel issues faced by companies, both big and small, within the industry and see what can be done to resolve them, either internally – by suggesting modifications to companies' procedures or mindset – or externally, by representing aerospace's needs to universities and government.

Still new to the industry, Chapman has yet to finalise detailed plans as to what issues need addressing and how to tackle them. She is convinced, however, that improving how companies deal with people and skills issues can have a significant impact on their performance.

"The problem is that managers see these as HR issues and tend to shunt them to HR people who don't have the authority to deal with them," she says. "They are management issues. My job is to talk to boards and senior managers, see what people issues they have and what help they need to address them. I hope I will be able to help small and medium-sized enterprises especially do some fairly important things for their organisation."

As an example, she cites problems firms may have with reskilling – in an industry that marries fast-moving technical advances with a loyal, long-serving workforce, keeping staff up to speed with the latest technology can be challenging.

Although she will be mainly dealing with companies at management level, she expects any improvements she helps introduce to filter down to individual employees.

"Busy people, especially in a sector like manufacturing, will put up with awkward structures they have to work with and don't feel able to do anything about them – if those structures get taken out and replaced with new ones, the difference can be tremendous."

Another area where she believes she will be able to assist by taking the initiative on behalf of the industry is in attracting young people to aerospace careers and training courses.

"There is work to do in branding aerospace careers. As people leave school or university, we must encourage them to think of aerospace as an exciting place to be – which, of course, it is. That's an important message for us to get in front of people."

Chapman will also act as a bridge between individual companies and university science departments, to make sure that students are acquiring the skills companies will need in the years to come.

She is looking forward to getting under the skin of the industry – having worked for Philips for seven years, she is pleased to be back in the engineering sector.

"The proportion of extremely bright and skilled people in this industry is high, which always makes life interesting," she says.


Source: Flight International