KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and AI-consultancy Xomnia have partnered to deliver a re-skilling project aimed at training some of the airline’s employees in data analytics and data science, to provide them with a sustainable professional future within KLM.
After the shift in the travel landscape post-2020, demand for skills in certain departments within the airline decreased, while the need for data skills increased. Therefore, KLM partnered with Xomnia to launch a pilot reskilling program to train 9 of the airline’s employees. The graduates of the program, 3 data scientists and 6 data analysts, are now working at KLM’s different data teams using their newly learnt skills.
Following the success of the pilot, KLM is looking into the potential of applying this method on a wider scale across the company, to tap into its human potential for data skills, while empowering its employees with state-of-the-art knowledge within the industry.
“We have a very good relationship with Xomnia and we have hired many data scientists and data engineers from them. We have been very happy with the help in the reskilling programs and we would love to continue working together.” Guido Santegoeds, Product Owner Reskilling Data at Air France-KLM.
Following the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, KLM had to drastically bring down the number of flights it operated worldwide. The company had to reduce the size of many of its teams to decrease its costs, which also impacted its IT and development teams, whose employees were mostly temporary, external hires.
As soon as travel restrictions eased and flights resumed, however, KLM found itself in a big need for data scientists and data analysts, who were necessary to help the company make informed decisions within an unfamiliar landscape. This included determining the best destinations to fly, and how to quickly respond to changes in global travel regulations, among others.
“We had a shortage of data science and data analytics skills within my department and within KLM as a whole. In the meantime, we had other employees with time on their hands in some other departments and lines of work,” says Guido Santegoeds, who was also the manager of Data Science & OR at Air France-KLM.
“We thought there might be employees within KLM who don’t yet have experience as data scientists, but who are talented enough in mathematics, logic and statistics. If we trained them for a few months, we thought they could be ready to fill the position of data scientist or data analyst,” he adds.
This is how the re-skilling pilot project came to life. Guido and his team started by holding brainstorming sessions with members of the data teams within KLM, many of whom have themselves been trained successfully by Xomnia.
“We have worked very successfully in the past with Xomnia, which has trained many of our employees, so it was obvious to reach out to Casper Engelkens, to discuss and ask how Xomnia might be able to help us on this topic,” Guido adds.
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The re-skilling team at KLM conducted internal interviews to ask different managers and employees throughout the company where they felt there were shortages in IT positions within the company. Shortages were identified in data science and data analytics skills, among others.
After announcing the data science and data analytics re-skilling tracks to all of KLM’s staff members, around 70 employees from all backgrounds and seniority levels have registered their interest in joining the pilot.
A very thorough screening process followed, leaving 20 promising candidates, of which 9 were chosen to join the pilot program, divided into 3 data scientists and 6 data analysts. The candidates came from different backgrounds, ranging from cabin attendants in their 20’s, to managers in their 60’s.
Xomnia delivered to the 9 trainees introductory courses about data science and analytics translator skills, such as storytelling with data, and data visualization. The KLM reskilling data team provided the overall curriculum, coaching, and in-depth lessons on KLM data tools.
“The trainees also did internships during the program at different business units, coming in close contact with some managers in the business. Some of them were practically re-hired in new data-related positions before they finished their program, and all of them have found positions shortly after graduation,” Guido adds.
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“This training helps the employees a lot in allowing them to develop themselves and helps the company to increase its potential in the field of data,” says Guido.
Now that KLM is in the middle of the reorganization of its IT department, re-skilling is expected to play a big part. The success of the pilot program means that the project has the potential to be used in larger numbers in this reorganization. Next to this, re-skilling will play a key role in the overall development of the workforce at KLM, now and in the future.
The exact number of future re-skilling candidates, however, will depend on the interest and skills of the staff as well as the type of positions that remain hard to fill.
In addition to the reskilling project, KLM’s staff can access courses on data science provided by Xomnia via KLM’s internal catalogue, where online educational options are available for employees. These courses will be ideal for employees looking to educate themselves with the basics of data science at their own pace.