How a UK partnership between Airbus and Guidant is taking a smarter approach to hiring contingent workers
Whether they are operatives, administrators or specialist consultants, having skilled and motivated people available for fixed-term projects allows Airbus to respond to changing demand quickly.
These contingent workers – colleagues hired on temporary contracts – play a vital role in the way we run our business and deliver our work.
Certainly, for hiring managers like Roy Haworth who was Head of UK Quality Assurance at Airbus Defence and Space up until the recent reorganisation, they are a valuable resource.
"We have a dynamic demand, depending on the number and size of projects we win," says Roy. "So, it makes sense to keep our permanent team at the same level and then take on additional people, when the need arises. Although contingent workers are a supplementary team, its important they have the right skills and capabilities. We need them to think and act like any other member of the permanent workforce – focused on quality, delivery and efficiency. My managers should be able to look at them and think 'I'd like to have them as permanent employees'."
James Chapman is one of the contingent workers at Defence and Space. For him a short-term contract in the propulsion systems team was a way back into engineering after an unintended career change.
"I spent seven years in the oil and gas industry but was made redundant when key projects were shelved," says James, a Materials Engineer. "I spent some time in the family manufacturing business and was out of work for a while. It was difficult to find roles to fit my specific skills before this opportunity arose to get into the aerospace sector with Airbus."
It was James' first contingent role. He signed a 12-month contract, which was renewed in June this year. He is now one of five contingent workers in a team of around 15.
"Everyone gets along well and there's no differentiation between permanent and temporary. We are all part of one team," he adds.
While this kind of workforce is not new to Airbus or the industry, managing a skilled and dynamic contingent workforce effectively can be extremely complicated.
That's where Airworks, a partnership between Airbus and specialist service provider Guidant, is helping ensure that the supply of high-quality contingent workers is reliable, straightforward and consistent.
Airbus' relationship with Guidant's parent, Impellam Group, stretches back 15 years through its recruitment companies Blue Arrow and Carbon60. Although the previous approach provided Airbus with the workers it needed, there was need for greater transparency, standardised processes and more consistent management information.
As a result, in April 2016, Airworks was born. Under the partnership Guidant provides a comprehensive managed recruitment service across Airbus sites in the UK.
As well as numerous behind-the-scenes changes – one of the key differences for hiring managers is the introduction of an online management system provided by IQN Beeline.
Lynsey Derosa, Guidant's Account Director for Airbus, explained: "Previously, contingent workers at different sites were being recruited from different suppliers, at different rates and in a variety of ways. Now when a hiring manager needs a particular resource, they log in to IQN and add in their request. This goes through various standardised approval loops before coming back to us for verification. Once that's done we release it to a supply chain of agencies for them to fill the position. It means the process is standardised and there's no risk of going to agencies where there's no relationship in place. It also means there's access to a wider candidate pool, so managers should get the very best people for the role."
Something that hasn't changed is the presence at Airbus sites of Guidant's experts.
"There's more than 100 years of Airbus expertise in the Airworks team," says Lynsey, who is based at Broughton and looks after all 1,600 contingent workers for Airbus in the UK.
"It is a complex company and we are delivering a bespoke service that is tailored to the very differing needs of the business, from blue collar operations to rocket science. Having experienced partners with a trusted relationship built up over a long term is a huge benefit. We speak the same language as Airbus and feel like part of the team."
For managers like Roy Haworth this relationship is crucial. "We need a supplier who can find the right people just when we need them," he says. "They need to understand the softer side of what we are looking for, not just the skills and experience but the right kind of people to fit straight into a multi-disciplinary team. The more the recruiters know our business and understand our needs, the better."
- Airworks coordinates a contingent worker headcount of 1,600 with around 100 live vacancies at any one time
- Airbus is supported by a team of 21 dedicated professionals at Broughton, Portsmouth, Filton, Newport and Stevenage
- Skill sets recruited include aircraft production (fitters, technicians), design engineers, cyber security and rocket thruster design.