TPA’s innovative AOC Training Academy graduates its first class
Earlier this year, TPA Senior Manager of the Airport Operations Center Shannon Boos approached Tony D’Aiuto with the idea of starting a training academy for AOC dispatchers. His first thought?
“It sounded crazy,” he said. The AOC, the nerve center of the Airport which handles both customer service and police operation calls, is one of the busiest areas of TPA and juggles various duties at all times to keep the Airport safe, secure and running smoothly. But D’Auito quickly warmed up to the idea of being able to train new employees properly and efficiently in an innovative 12-week “school,” as opposed to the 12-month period it usually takes to properly train a rookie dispatcher.
Fast forward to last Friday, July 26, when TPA graduated its first class of five AOC dispatchers, who were all fully trained after 12 weeks in a simulated AOC environment and eager to get started in the real AOC. With their family members gathered around to take photos, the new TPA employees accepted their training certificates and had pizza and cake to celebrate.
“It was a great experience and they really put us through the trials,” said Andrew Bush, who began his first shift right after the ceremony. “We got to handle foot pursuits and traffic stops, learn about the processes and new technology and work though every type of scenario that can happen at an airport.”
D’Auito, along with AOC Manager Scott Rooney, created the curriculum from scratch, even coming up with a way to simulate the NCIC tracking database – one of the hardest software systems on which to train users because it can’t be used for practice scenarios – using a PowerPoint step-by-step.
“That blew my mind,” Boos said.
TPA’s AOC, much like other AOCs around the country that have their own airport police departments, has always had challenges with training during periods of turnover, typically only training one or two employees at a time because of how long it takes to teach dispatchers both the airport operational calls and the police calls. Training can take up to a year to bring new dispatchers up to speed on all of the various technical systems, processes, police codes and lingo, airport maintenance issues and customer service aspects of the job.
Now, TPA can bring in multiple new AOC employees at a time and give them the tools they need in 12 to 13 weeks before they’re ready to handle real-world situations at the Airport.
“We put a lot of emphasis on innovation and process improvement at Tampa International Airport,” said John Tiliacos, Executive Vice President of Operations and Customer Service. “I can think of no better example than this.”