AT KK GROUP, EYES ARE NOW TRAINED ON SAFER SKIES
Why the landing of an IATA endorsement is a big deal forsecurity giant
When widely diversified security boutique KK Group ,received the nod from IATA to conduct aviation training locally early this year, it was a veritable strategic coup for the firm.
The Aviation Training Centre (ATC) accreditation,handed to the School Lane, Westlands-based outfit, after a rigorous vetting process that lasted about one year, is clearly a big deal – not just for the group, but for the aviation industry in East and Central Africa as well.
KK Group is the first company to make the ATC grade in the region, in itself no mean feat, considering that the nearest other station isin South Africa. As a bonus, the company was able to wring out an exclusivity clause that ensures it is the only security company providing such training in Kenya for the foreseeable future.
This new foray into uncharted terrain (skies) has the latent potential to soar into a new avenue for lateral growth and a revenuestream at the group, which has over the years built a reputation as a trend-setter and strategic thought leader in the security stakes in the region.
Besides local airlines, ground handling companies; relevant regulatory bodies; clearing &forwarding companies and other related businesses now have a chance to train their personnel here in Kenya, under the tutelage of IATA-trained and certified resources at just a third of the cost they would incur, if they use the options that are available outside Kenya. Significantly, all this would be done in an environment that allows for closer monitoring of trainer, course content and uptake, if the strong pitch made by KK Group Training Manager, LUCAS NDOLO, is any guide.
He spoke to WASHINGTON AKUMU about the landmark certification and a number of related issues. Excerpts…
- 1. This must have been quite a journey. How did you get to thispoint, which obviously marks a key milestone in the history of KK?
KK has primarily been dealing with security in the region for quite a number of years. This is something we have done from inception in 1967. We are in effect 45 years old in security provision. As part of our corporate DNA, KK has always looked for new opportunities and aviation security is one of the areas that we have identified, with a lot of demand in the country and the region. We decided to approach IATA (International Air Transport Association) to see whether we could deliver some of the courses that they have in aviation security and other areas that are of interest to both the security and aviation industries. IATA undertook a thorough and very rigorous due diligence of our company and our proposal to partner with them. IATA approved our business plan and our training centre, as an authorized training centre for IATA! We are the only security company in Africa that has been granted ATC (authorized training centre) status by them. Naturally, we are very proud of this achievement and we believe that this marriage between KK Security and IATA will go a long way in ensuring that professional development in the security field is enhanced across the region. IATA is very strong on human resource development the world over and we are partnering with IATA to bring this ideal to fruition in the region.
- 2. For any training to happen, you require trainees. Who needs the training you shall be offering.
Our target market is the airline industry; anybody who is involved in any way with IATA. These include local airlines, the ground handling companies, relevant regulatory bodies and government agencies (e.g. Kenya Civil Aviation Authority, Kenya Airports Authority,Kenya Airports Police Unit etc), clearing and forwarding companies and related organizations. IATA is, as you know, an association of air transportersand any member of IATA must follow the regulations and training that IATA requires. Any airline operating out of Kenya which wants to meet the IATA standards in aviation security in terms of Dangerous Goods Regulations (DGR), transportation of live animals and other courses that we have been authorized by IATA to conduct here in Kenya will be on our radar. Initially, we are looking at doing in-house training for airlines, ground handling companies and for anybody who comes into contact with the airline industry. We will move in the next few months, from providing in-house training to providing training at our own centre and we plan for this to happen in the next couple of months.
- 3. This sounds like it has been quite a labour of love for KK, which seems to have ended well. So what did it take for KK to achieve this historic certification?
The process was quite demanding. It took a complete year. We can certainly say that it is not easy to get ATC certification. It was a year of interviews, visits, business plans, market analysis etc. We had to show that the project is viable in Kenya and that we had the capacity, resources and manpower to conduct the courses for IATA here. We applied for the certification in March last year and received it in March this year. But we are glad we went through the process and are satisfied that we earned this rightfully.
- 4. You have provided a fairly good idea of which firms you shall be pitching to. Let us talk personnel.
It is very dependent on the courses that are on the menu. We will be running several courses. With our background of course, aviation security awareness comes naturally. We are also running the DGR course, (Dangerous Goods Regulations) and we are also running the transport of live animals course. We have a leadership programme, which has been developed jointly by IATA and Harvard University, as part of the menu. So, dependent on what area or where the key personnel come from, there will be courses that are necessary and tailored for them. However, when we look at the aviation industry itself, every person involved in an aircraft is part of our target market for trainees– for example all pilots must do an aviation security awareness course. After every two years, pilots must do refresher training which also entails a three-day programme on aviation security. DGR is another course that is mandatory. Aviation security is a must for pilots and cabin crew. DGR training is also required for ground-handling personnel as well and anybody handling luggage on and off the aircraft. These courses are necessary for all these cadres of staff.
- 5. Why should one use KK, which has no history in aviation security, let alone training people in it?
KK is the foremost security company in the East and Central African region. We believe we are a professional outfit. We run all our training programmes professionally. We feel that the greater society in eastern and central Africa can benefit from this professionalism that is at the core of our value proposition. The professionalism that you see in our training programmes in the security training is what we want to bring to aviation security training. We have a good footprint in East and Central Africa and believe that if an airline wants to train its people in aviation security, DGR etc, they should not have to take them to South Africa, Dubai or Montreal. They can get their personnel trained here in Kenya and get the same IATA-certified quality and content. It is certainly going to be very much more affordable if it is done by KKas opposed to sending employees abroad for courses that are already available here.
- 6. Tell me about capacity-building. Have you assembled a bankable army of trainers and what will you do to ensure they stay on top of their game in an industry that is in constant flight, one where security issues are daily evolving.
Currently, all the trainers that we are using are trained and certified by IATA. They have to go through re-certification every two years to keep those certificates. We believe that will take care of the imperative for currency and relevance. We have four trainers on board for DGR and for AVSEC (aviation security). We also have internal resources that we intend to use in this programme who have years of experience in general security training and we will be sending them for external training to Montreal or Geneva in accordance with what IATA stipulates.
- 7. What is the word on the ground, or shall we say the sky, so far? What has been the market’s initial reaction? It is early days, but I am sure you have an indication.
There is palpable excitement in the industry and we are feeling it. This is hinged on the realization that we can now get these courses run here in Kenya, especially the AVSEC course. First, there is excitement that it can actually be done here; it can be affordable and it is much easier to control and police. What used to happen in the past, is that one would contract a “briefcase trainer”, say one who was lastcertified by IATA say in 2000. A trainer of this mould may not have gone back for re-certification. Such trainers are not necessarily aware of current trends, and this is near-suicidal especially in this knowledge-sensitive industry where you have to be ahead to stay relevant. So, it will be much easier to monitor and ensure that people are being given the right training and, most importantly, by trainers who have been trained and certified by IATA. That is crucialnot just to IATA itself but also to players in the industry. The availability of these products here in Kenya has certainly kicked off a lot of excitement in the aviation sector which we hope will be concretized in the form of contracts soon.
- 8. Our notion of KK is defined by manned guarding, the dog unit and to some extent cash-in-transit. Isn’t KK in danger of losing its soul in this apparent flight to new, exotic destinations? How will you ensure that your core business does not become a poor cousin to the new functions?
At the KK Group, security is ourcore business. Aviation security is just another facet of what we do. So we are not going out (of our core business). We are still playing very much within the same field. What we are doing is to place ourselves strategically in the areas that we know are growing and have potential for further development. Aviation is one such industry and is growing at an immense rate in East and Central Africa. We want to be part of that growth. We believe that we can play a vital part in the growth of this industry. In tandem, we are moving into other areas like oil and gas logistics and security consultancy because we are convinced that this sector is equally poised for takeoff and a change of attitude within the next three to five years in this region. KK believes in establishing leadership in emergent areas. We are the market leaders and we believethat as part of this leadership, it is up to us to open new frontiers,. We believe that strategic leadership is something that we are very good at and we see no reason why we cannot be good in the future doing the same.
- 9. What next for this new venture in aviation security training? When can we see the first class?
Already, we have approached a number of players in the industry. We have several Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) signed up with some of them and once we are engaged to them, we believe that we will be a serious player in providing training on aviation security, DGR and other related courses, not just in Kenya but the region as a whole. Once we have established ourselves in Kenya as a reputable trainer, which we expect to achieve by the end of the year, we will roll out to the rest of the region where KK already has an expansive six-country footprint, to provide the same sort of training for all aviation industry players in East and Central Africa. The process of building a name in aviation training in Kenya has already begun