Major shortage of qualified Caymanians, CIAA responds to critics
In a release on Wednesday the Cayman Islands Airports Authority (CIAA) said that it has been actively recruiting Caymanians to fill the role of Air Traffic Controllers (ATCO) on a continuous basis for many years, however the authority says there remains a shortage in the local talent pool.
The revelation comes as news broke about the island's airport authority recent overseas recruitment drive.
While the CIAA admits that there exists a situation in which there is a shortage of qualified and competent Caymanian air traffic controllers, they noted that the problem is not unique to Cayman further adding the shortage is a global one.
" ATCO shortages is an acute global phenomena, affecting developed and under-developed nations equally," read the release.
Contributing to the current shortage of qualified & competent Caymanian ATCOs, the CIAA said a number of them were promoted to various supervisory and managerial positions within the CIAA, while three others have left the service to pursue other related career paths.
Additionally, the CIAA says it has implemented new procedures to separate the duties of Aerodrome & Approach control service, as per industry standards, enabling the facility to operate with a higher degree of safety and efficiency.
This procedure, according to the CIAA, has directly resulted in the need to essentially double the existing number of qualified ATCOs.
Contained in the release issued on Wednesday, both the CIAA and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Cayman Islands have identified an immediate need for additional officers and in response to these regulatory requirements.
As a result the CIAA says it is pursuing short term (two year) mitigation by employing experienced ATCOs through contracted services.
"The offer of a two year contract is based on the expectation that after two years local candidates will be at an advanced stage of qualification and will subsequently be able to fulfil the obligations of the post," added the release.
The CIAA noted that it is neither advantageous nor prudent to pay for contracted services, whenever local candidates are available.
The CIAA currently has 96 employees, with only one work-permit holder on staff.
The below is a summary of the authority's hiring since fiscal year 2014:
Fiscal Year 2014:
In Quarter 2 of 2014, two ATC candidates were seconded to overseas training in Trinidad & Tobago, and were both successful in theoretical and practical on the job training, and were validated for regular duty in the ORIA ATC unit in Quarter 4 of 2016.
Fiscal Year 2015:
In Quarter 1 of 2015, two local Air Traffic Control Assistants attended overseas training in Trinidad & Tobago, and were successful in both theoretical and practical on the job training, and were validated for regular duty in the Charles Kirkconnell Internal Airport (CKIA) ATC unit in Quarter 4 of 2016.
With their success, the CIAA transferred two existing Cayman Brac ATCOs from CKIA to ORIA to complement that unit, in an attempt to meet the stringent regulatory requirement for minimum staffing levels in accordance with UK CAA CAP 670 Part D (enclosed). Unfortunately, only one of those transferred officers was successful in obtaining an ORIA unit competency.
Fiscal Year 2016:
In 2016, additional recruitment drives resulted in the hiring of two new recruits for the CKIA ATC unit, one of which was seconded to overseas training in Trinidad in Quarter 1 2018, as there is a requirement for nine months AB initio (pre-qualification) training prior to departure. This candidate is currently undergoing on the job training in ORIA.
Fiscal Year 2017:
Another recruitment drive through Cayman Media houses, CIAA social media & local educational facilities resulted in one successful candidate being hired, and subsequently being seconded to training overseas in Trinidad. This candidate was not successful.
Fiscal Year 2018:
Local recruitment in Quarter 4 2017/Quarter 1 2018 yielded 33 applicants, 13 candidates were not Caymanian, and therefore not considered. The remaining 20 were Caymanians.
Two of the 20 applicants met all conditions stated in the advertisement However, a total of 16 were selected for pre-employment testing. Of the 16, three achieved the required pass mark of 80% on the ATC aptitude test.
Out of a desire to maximise the opportunity afforded to Caymanians, a second evaluation, focusing on personality traits was administered. This effort resulted in five candidates being eligible.
Four persons were interviewed and subsequently offered positions as ATC Trainees. The fifth candidate, withdrew their application prior to the interview process in favour of another open position within the CIAA.
These four candidates commenced their local AB initio training on 1 February 2019 in preparation for overseas training.
At present, four candidates are at an advanced stage of the selection process in Cayman Brac.
Another group of 14 local applicants for ATCO trainees is currently being vetted for ORIA.