Since January 2016, Skills International has been supporting the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand (CAA) to develop the capabilities of their regulatory staff.
The role of Civil Aviation Authority regulators is to ensure that all operations in New Zealand skies are safe, and that all risks involved with aviation are regulated and managed effectively. They do this by enforcing New Zealand laws and policy across all areas of the aviation industry, including staff management, operations, and equipment. The CAA employs around 150 regulators into teams that manage the certification, monitoring, or investigation processes involved in each of these areas.
Given the nature of the aviation industry and the rigorous regulations that govern it, it is essential that CAA’s regulators are adequately trained, and that there is consistency in the quality of their skills and professionalism over all areas of the organisation. Skills international partnered with CAA to assist in developing and implementing a new system that would meet this need.
Given the large staff numbers and the diversity of regulatory roles over different teams, one challenge the CAA needed to overcome was a lack of consistency among the methods of regulation, and the expectations of the regulators’ role across different areas of the industry.
A key issue CAA needs to manage is the tendency for technically skilled staff with a long history in the industry to revert to check list behaviour when undertaking audits and inspections. The CAA is in the process of combatting this by implementing a risk-based approach to regulation which requires open and systems-based thinking and problem-solving approaches to regulation.
Skills International facilitated the development of behavioural and technical competencies which embed critical and systems thinking. We also assisted CAA in the development of evidence-based assessment processes and practice to drive the learning and professional development of regulators. Furthermore, Skills International introduced the CAA to thinking around learning and development which took them beyond the traditional focus on formal knowledge and skills development, to treat learning as part of the natural workflow.
Developing this new system and assisting CAA in implementing it required several of our consulting services, including:
- Collaborating with regulators and CAA stakeholders to develop a behavioural competency framework for a high-performing regulator. This involved defining a new set of required regulator capabilities (critical thinking, problem solving, evidence-based thinking, collaboration, systems thinking, etc) and how to assess them.
- Running workshops to train the regulators in these newly defined capabilities.
- Developing clear and thorough national occupational standards for the certification, monitoring, and investigating processes within CAA to ensure quality and consistency of all regulatory practices could be measured and assessed.
- Developing a competency-based assessment system.
- Reviewing learning and development pathways to ensure that professional development continued to be implemented going forward. The pathway SIL designed for the regulators included a continued professional development programme based on on-job learning principles. This programme also encompasses formal learning, personal development plans, and regular assessments of progress against the behavioural and technical competence frameworks.
With strong support from the Chief Executive and other CAA key stakeholders from the beginning, the new competency-based system has been successfully imbedded into normal recruitment, development and assessment practice. This has resulted in CAA now being able to:
- assess the professionalism and competence of their regulatory staff against behavioural and occupational standards
- ensure that the high performance and regulatory processes followed by staff are consistent throughout all areas of CAA
- successfully implement a risk-based approach to regulation with the staff’s application of their problem-solving and systems-thinking skills
- ensure regulatory staff continue to develop their capability and professionalism as they move along their pathway of continued professional development.
The workshops have also prompted additional, wider thinking around organisational development within the CAA, and the importance of developing internal training expertise.
We have continued to engage with CAA on the development of key learning programmes including the art of problem solving.