Air opportunity for veterans
More than a year ago, Julian Keeling of Los Angeles-based Consolidators International put a bunch of unemployed people to work by leveraging Obama administration stimulus money for one-year job internships.
A county program used the stimulus money to subsidize training and employment for qualified individuals at area businesses. Keeling figured it was a good way for his freight forwarding business to give people a tryout and retain them if they performed well to help the company meet expected growth in transportation demand.
Now the New Zealand native is providing another community service. He recently created a non-profit organization called Operation Must Do to help U.S. military veterans find employment in the air freight industry.
The goal is to put former soldiers on the front line of the Transportation Security Administration's air cargo security programs by training them to conduct security checks on cargo bound for passenger aircraft.
Cargo is screened by airlines at the airport or by forwarders and shippers at their premises as they build pallets for consolidation. The law requires screening for all cargo on passenger planes operating in the United States. The Certified Cargo Screening Program allows non-airline entities to self-screen freight to avoid glitches at the airport, companies must train personnel, conduct background checks on them and follow other protocols designed to ensure a package can be trusted by parties downstream without having to inspect it again.
The four-week course, featuring on-the-job training and classroom instruction, is being held at the Consolidators International facility.
Keeling collaborated with veterans groups in Southern California to find ex-military people interested in pursuing freight careers.
'Our students range in age from those who saw action during the war in Vietnam to younger veterans who served during the time of the Iraqi and Afghanistan conflicts,' Keeling said in a news release.
The job market for logistics personnel with cargo screening skills is good because there is a shortage of screeners among airlines and forwarders throughout the country.
Operation Must Do said air freight sector companies have approached the organization asking when training will be completed so they can hire its students. The jobs can eventually lead to management positions.
Keeling plans to add courses in other aspects of air freight for veterans and expand Operation Must Do to cargo gateways such as New York, Miami, Chicago and San Francisco.
Airline industry had tough decade
The general perception is that the airline industry has rebounded well from the crises of last decade ' the 9/11 terror attacks, SARS, the Iraq War, the global recession, the H1N1 virus ' that dampened demand for travel.
Profits are up, in part due to checked baggage and other ancillary fees charged to passengers.
Of course, the crises keep coming. There was the volcanic ash cloud over Europe that shut down aviation for the better part of a week in 2010, this year Japan's triple disaster precipitated by a giant earthquake and widespread unrest in the Middle East, not to mention huge spikes in fuel prices.
In 2010, airlines posted combined profits of $18 million, their best result in 10 years. But consider that for the decade since 2001 the industry's net income was $42.4 billion.
The operating margin during that period was a paltry 1 percent. Last year, margins improved to 3.2 percent, hardly the type of growth that sustains investment, hiring and expansion.
The International Air Transport Association has downgraded its profit expectations for this year from $8.6 billion to $4 billion. Airlines are able to cling to profits because they spent the past several years in cost-cutting mode and investing in more fuel-efficient aircraft.
Keep your shoes on
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is exploring the use of risk management techniques to reduce the burden on the traveling public at airport security checkpoints, Secretary Janet Napolitano said June 6 at the American Association of Exporters and Importers annual conference in New York.
The Transportation Security Administration within DHS is evaluating a domestic version of Customs and Border Protection's Global Entry program as well as fewer inspection requirements for passengers, she said.
Global Entry is a trusted traveler program that allows expedited passage through Customs for pre-approved, low-risk international travelers. Passengers supply personal information and submit to a CBP interview during which a fingerprint scan is taken. After passing a background check and paying $100, applicants simply go to a special kiosk at the arrival gate, present their machine-readable U.S. passport or permanent resident card, place their fingertips on a scanner and make a customs declaration. The kiosk spits out a receipt and directs the traveler to baggage claim and the exit.
'We're looking at some ways to facilitate a trusted traveler-type program that would be usable domestically as well as internationally,' Napolitano said in response to an audience question.
The impetus for the change comes from DHS's broader strategy of separating low-risk passengers and cargo from those that are unknown or suspicious and require more attention. Officials believe they can more effectively use limited resources through intelligent deployment rather than trying to inspect every person or shipment.
TSA is also looking at how to minimize the amount of 'divestiture' required of passengers in security lines, the secretary said.
'Divestiture' is the government term for things people must remove and place on the conveyor for separate X-ray scans because the systems aren't sophisticated enough to detect explosives among other clutter.
Napolitano said new policies are being considered that would replace the requirement for every person to remove their shoes prior to going through the metal detector with random inspections. The new approach would also mean not having to remove all laptops from carrying bags and placing them in bins to go through the X-ray machine.
'We're only going to do it if I'm convinced that the security issues are fairly addressed. It's only going to take one plane (going down). We have no room for error,' Napolitano said.
'But I think, and the security people think, that there are some changes that we can move to over the coming year or two that can make a difference.'