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Interview with Resource Group Chief Operating Officer (COO) Jonathan Price

  • Publish Date: Posted about 2 years ago
  • Author:by Resource Group

When the pandemic first hit, the aviation industry came to a halt, which meant that many people lost their jobs, countries closed their borders, planes were parked up on runways or put in storage and, some retired earlier than planned. Therefore, we thought it would a time to get to know more about our Chief Operating Officer (COO) Jonathan Price.

Were you always interested in working in the aviation industry?

No, I wasn’t. I spent the early years of my working life in alpine hospitality and property services. I studied Business Management and was most interested in commercial fundamentals and the sales and marketing process in particular. In the small businesses that I ran, I was really lucky to get critical, early experience in the importance of dedicated and acute focus on a target market and the underlying quality of service. I learned that those two ingredients will normally allow an organisation to leverage specialisation and superior client experience to achieve long-term relationships and financial returns.

Funnily enough, in many areas of Aviation, and in Recruitment and Training in general, there are a number of skills easily transferable from the hospitality world. Both are focused on relationships, consumer experience, and the quality of the outcome. Beyond that, from a leisure and recreation perspective, particularly in our Airline and Private Aviation activity, there are still more touchpoints.

As is the case for so many who work in the sector, once you are ‘in’, it is difficult to imagine working in any other area. The sector is so fast-paced, technologically interesting, and inextricably linked to global, social and, economic progress that it’s difficult not to be attracted to it.

Can you tell me a little about your journey through the company and your current role?

When I first joined the Swiss business in 2009 I focused on the delivery and re-packaging of certain recruitment service lines – especially in the technical, aircraft maintenance, repair, and overhaul space. Our presence and speciality in the business/VIP aviation sub-sector was what really allowed me to develop my technical understanding of aircraft and the sector and to establish a network within what really is the ‘small world’ of aviation. 

I secured new accounts in Switzerland, Spain, France, Germany, Eastern Europe, Africa, and Asia and after an initial steep learning curve, I steadily developed my knowledge of aircraft types, supply chains, and the industry at large. One of the reasons I never tire of aviation is that you never stop learning.

I moved through various commercial, and subsequently operational, roles, prior to a successful management buy-out/carve-out in mid-2017, of the businesses which now comprise the Group. Together with Stephan and Ian, I help to lead the business not only as an employee but also as a shareholder.

The past two years have been pretty torrid for the aviation sector, how has the company navigated this difficult period?

Resource Group has had to adapt significantly in a myriad of ways in response to the pandemic. We had to pare back capacity and to make sure the organization was as lean as possible whilst still having the strength and depth to deliver to our clients and to continue to secure what business has been available. Aside from ‘shape and size’ adjustments made, we have had to rapidly adjust to suit the prevailing market conditions, regional and national restrictions, and Coronavirus measures. Our delivery methods have adapted accordingly – whether that be in the context of face-to-face training or temporary personnel supply, the protocols and practicalities of almost all service lines have been affected at some point by the worldwide situation.  

Some important innovations have been accelerated as a result of the pandemic. Our distance learning solutions matured to include teaching via video link, for example – which in some respects has provided flexibility and convenience to our learners at a time when skill and qualification enhancement was in high demand due to the downtime which many workers in the aviation industry experienced.

Demand for our other digital products such as E-Learning and Learning Design has also been consistent. We have seen an increasing appetite for deployed learning – whereby we take practical learning delivery to our clients’ sites. These trends are likely to endure for the long term.

Our spread of sub-sector presence has also helped us to navigate the challenges of the last 24 months. We have an exclusive focus on Aviation as a sector but within that, we are not only active in Commercial/Airline but also deeply involved in Business Aviation, Military, Cargo, and Production. Certain areas have been largely unaffected and in others, we have actually seen some modest growth. This spread of Group service offering, coupled with the spread of verticals that we address, has been a key feature of our strategy over the years and in the context of the pandemic has paid dividends.

How do you see the Post-Covid recovery continuing and is there now light at the end of the tunnel?

The variant issue and the resulting impact on restrictions and, hence, the recovery curve, was a major challenge last year and remains the potential barrier to sustained recovery into Q1 of 2022. However, prior to the most recent wave of European restrictions, we were seeing a real ‘gearing up’ by leisure airlines for a busy spring/summer 2022. This niche is really at the mercy of national governments in this respect and only time will tell when the needs of society for business, leisure, and family travel are balanced with the need to control the potential threat of new variants of the coronavirus. We are cautiously optimistic about a meaningful increase in leisure travel in summer 2022 and hope that with widespread vaccination and new travel protocols bedded in and proven, this is now a realistic prospect.

Airline recovery aside, our business is the creation and provision of skills to support the sector as a whole. This is the value that we bring and in terms of the skills that we provide and create there is certainly a bright future. The pandemic, through early retirements, personnel leaving the sector, and a lack of new talent entering the industry, has amplified the already critical situation concerning the shortage of skills in Aviation – be that in the cockpit or on the ground. We only see an opportunity for our Group in the years to come in ensuring sufficient quality and quantity of skilled people are available to our clients.

An example of this is the demand that we are already seeing for apprentice training in anticipation of the work to be done in the years ahead and it is our privilege to introduce youth to the sector and to be able to promise them a bright and prosperous future with our clients who share our vision and optimism.

In terms of the company moving forward; do you see any lasting effect of Covid on operational norms and company culture?

Obviously, the practical implications of the pandemic for individuals and firms are, on some level, here to stay. We have seen flexibility in working patterns and locations work well to some degree and have embraced certain aspects of this to allow our staff more flexibility where possible.

Beyond the practical considerations, I think that the cultural impact on the business is an interesting aspect of the situation. I think that individuals have taken stock of their lives as a whole and have, at different points during the pandemic, had the time or opportunity to live according to slightly different priorities. I am very proud that the company has managed, despite the practical challenges of distance and separation, to come through the pandemic with a renewed sense of community and togetherness – this is probably the most important achievement of the last couple of years and the deep foundations of that community will endure in the years ahead.