To do this, it relies on its Sure Select recruitment and training programme. As a hugely complex and predominantly manual set of disparate people-driven processes and tests, the Sure Select assessment centre is a unique and critical tool that gives Airways distinctive competitive advantage, performing the complicated, expensive and risk-laden task of recruiting, selecting and delivering training to future air traffic controllers.
The selection and training of prospective air traffic controllers is not to be taken lightly. Considering the selection and training process takes a year and costs in excess of $100,000 to complete (which is still the cheapest training rate in the world), failed hires are a huge risk. Airways’ assessment centre needs to minimise this risk, both for the candidate, for Airways itself and for the international organisations who purchase Sure Select selection and training from Airways.
Prior to engaging Intergen to build the new solution, the Sure Select assessment centre was paper-based and its various components were disparate and driven manually. The assessment and selection methodology itself is highly sophisticated and proven, based on extensive research and experience, yet its execution let it down.
Each aspect of the paper-based system had its own pain point. Manual processes slowed things down. And because assessors could add or change elements of the training, introducing variability in content and timing, it wasn’t possible to deliver one definitive and consistent training experience.
All data, such as candidate information and test scores, was managed within an Excel spreadsheet.
“It was a reasonably clever spreadsheet,” explains Airways’ HR Manager, John Eatwell, “but it’s hard to persuasively sell a spreadsheet. And people would write over formulas; it was open to errors and therefore accuracy could come into question.”
Airways needed to bring the existing solution online, integrating all elements of the paper-based system into one computer-based system. And, due to the complexity of the testing performed, it also needed make doubly sure nothing got lost in translation from paper to PC.
In doing this, it would add value to its key competitive offering. A computerbased package would also “raise the barrier to entry,” John Eatwell says, protecting Airways’ long-cultivated IP from imitation. An online system would introduce consistency, streamline processes and better simulate the experience of air traffic control, providing more exact and certain outcomes.
As a leading edge, one-of-a-kind offering, with no other comparable solution available, Airways wanted the technology the new solution employed to be as innovative as the solution itself. Because of the complex nature and the scope of testing performed, with the requirement to coordinate up to six computers simultaneously running an air traffic control scenario, a bespoke solution was called for.
John Eatwell says: “A lot of our customers just need the solution to run straight away, with no intervention from IT staff, and the assessment centre is typically run by non-technical types, such as HR professionals and air traffic controllers. For this reason, we needed a robust solution that would be simple to use, something that just worked when you took it out of the box. It also needed to be adaptable and able to be used in a number of settings – including right in the middle of the runway!”
Windows Presentation Foundation was chosen as the best technology toolset for the solution. Providing a rich user experience for Windows desktop applications, WPF is a highly flexible communication technology for connecting application components over many types of channels and using many types of protocols, perfect for simulating an air traffic control environment.
With the new assessment centre now bedded in, feedback from its users has been extremely positive. With one centralised online system that is simpler and more engaging for candidates and testers alike, there is now a lot less manual entry involved throughout the process, and greater consistency and accuracy and quality of output is a given. The new system offers an unprecedented rendering of aeronautical space, representing huge operational and competitive advances in one of Airways’ most critical and complex tools.