Emerging Issues for ACRP:
Airport Workforce Development


Background Statement

Workforce development from the sector perspective focuses on what skills the airport industry needs and then embraces strategies that help to: ATTRACT, ENGAGE, EQUIP, and SUSTAIN a talent pipeline that will meet airports’ capacity needs now and in the future.

Research Ideas


This refers to building workforce development strategies that will improve awareness and interest of the labor market in airport jobs. This spans from creating awareness that airport jobs exist, positioning airports as “employers of choice”, and increasing applicant pools to developing recruitment, hiring, and employment practices and programs that result in the hiring of workers that fit well in the industry and seek to maintain a long tenure there.

Continued research needed in this area includes:

  • Explore cultural differences among potential employees and its role in meeting workforce development needs, diversity, and inclusion.
  • Develop branding and awareness about airport occupations.
  • Explore employment benefits that today’s workforce is attracted to.
  • Explore partnerships for recruiting workforce at local level and to capture diversity.
  • Include discussion on attracting future airport workforce at a young age through the local school system. Promote trade schools. Consider ways airports should engage and partner with local institutions (K-12) to design curriculum that promotes interest in airport jobs and presents different opportunities for future education for students who may not be college bound.
  • Discuss airports that have civil service jobs and the limitations involved in attracting and rewarding a workforce within this system. Identify creative ways municipal systems have recruited, hired and developed talent that map to the specific airport needs (vs generic civil service descriptions)- may include partnering with government.
  • Consider the hiring process and providing the right tools and training to generate a workforce within the airport industry.
  • Identify strategies to improve diversity and inclusion in the workforce and address underrepresentation relative to the populations in which the airports reside.


This refers to assessing and determining where cultural change within airports and across the industry may be needed to improve employee engagement and ultimately result in positive outcomes such increased employee commitment and productivity as well as improved perceptions of how the industry treats its employees (thereby resulting in more attraction of future workers and retention of current workers). This includes identifying strategies for successful cultural transformation.

Continued research needed in this area includes:

  • Influence and change the cultural organization to meet future 20-year outlook. Develop workforce of the future.
  • Identify change management strategies that work well for airports in need of cultural transformation/improvement (e.g., turnover is high; recruitment is challenge; press has been unfavorable; operations and productivity are suffering). Determine ways to evaluate employee engagement levels, identify drivers for low employee engagement, and implement interventions for improvement.
  • Assess and improve workplace well-being and health. Focus on stress and workplace demands particularly in light of the change nature of airport and new business models. Airports can be demanding places to work (e.g., urgent situations, unhappy customers, safety concerns) – all which can cause stress and ultimately lower health and well-being. Airports could benefit from a focus on their employees’ mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Research could look into what those common stressors are, the best ways to overcome it (e.g., training, workplace programs – maybe even develop some programs that could be applied across airports), and ways to limit or overcome stressors.
  • Identify ways to redesign work to create meaningful and enriching job opportunities. Research strategies that help build connection between employees’ work and the airport mission.
  • Identify effective ways to embrace a work model and approaches that are inclusive and attractive across generations. Identify strategies that leverage the experiences and expertise of workers and address generational needs as well as help create synchronicity and collaboration between seasoned and new talent.
  • Outline training related strategies that will help equip airport personnel with the required skills for the future (e.g., IT).


This refers to building skill sets required to perform airport work of the future. This may also include upskilling or reskilling the current airport workforce. The strategies in this area should identify developmental opportunities including education, training and work experiences that will build capacity in both the current and future workforce.

Continued research needed in this area includes:

  • Generate career pathways to promotion to demonstrate how airports provide promising career opportunities. This may include developing pathways that cross functional areas as well as dual pathways for those who don’t want leadership roles. Learn from different industries on how they’ve advanced employees without having to promote to leadership/management role. For example, providing promotions within a technical skill set that doesn’t need a leadership role.
  • Identify strategic partnerships with government, across airports, with associations, community organizations, and training and education institutions that can be leveraged to grow and develop talent (e.g., shared training academies; shared leadership development courses; onsite airport education courses).


This refers to the importance of retaining a strong workforce which preserves institutional knowledge and minimizes disruption in operations over time. To replace a departing worker, the airport can spend up to 150% of the salary of the individual leaving. This area includes strategies that decrease turnover and promote a positive culture and overall health of the organization.

Continued research needed in this area includes:

  • Identify ways to build professional capacity across the workforce that is broader than simply skills required for immediate jobs. This helps to create an agile workforce that can easily flex and change as new demands emerge.
  • Build strategies to support retention for mission critical jobs (executive down to front line) to promote enhance and sustain execution of the mission.
  • Identify best practices in succession planning including for municipally run systems.
  • Determine the optimal retention rate for airports (of varying types) based on skill or job task requirements.
  • Identify approaches that increase career opportunities and reduce stove-piping that can lead to stagnant workforce; strategies such as cross-functional skill development.
  • Identify knowledge management strategies across industries that could be effective for airports.


Related ACRP Research