Time Decompression

Time dimension permeates the discussion on ICs. These, as the HAv case shows, are shaped by previous decisions (modularisation and offshoring leading to the destruction of local ties and disappearing industrial fabric) and influenced by future outlook (need to provide skills for next generations and anticipate future competences). So, what stands out in the provision of the HAv pool of ICs are beside the classic economies of scope or scale typical for clusters, the economies of tune. It is because of the strong focus on developing fimire competences for aviation specialists.

Past decisions weigh on clusters’ presence, like the decline of regional suppliers, resulting fr om the modulation process, adopted by Airbus. Previous developments have led to some local destruction and disappearance of indigenous business. Nevertheless, as being aware of the time dimension, local actors make a continuous effort to address future challenges, specifically, in terms of skills and competences. Thus, the erosion of value chain and as seen by some experts, the faltering or even dying industrial fabric, requires more concerted actions to restore the ICs, among others by focusing on training, education, skills in the aviation sector. The advantages of time decompression (diseconomies of time compression) reflect the gradual nature of the expertise building.

Following the modularisation strategy of Airbus, many local suppliers have been cut off from the production network, which destroyed existing trust relations. Previous idiosyncratic specifications were replaced by some standardised modules. Instead of the former, usually captive linkages among networks’ actors, the common knowledge infrastructure is created in a horizontal global system of standard-setting organisations. Locally, this, unfortunately, has led to the disruption of existing inter-personal trust relations and specific disembedding processes (Buxbaum-Conradi, 2018).

Cluster experts argue that there used to be a tendency to make production and development decentralised, however, modularisation, not only proved to be hard, but it has also much affected the local cluster relationships. Now there seems to be a trend to reverse the previous strategy and to re-integrate production, vertically. (CS2) ‘They have problems. The whole supply chain has been dying. Finns have to merge to survive; so, it seems they focus now more on training, education, consulting. Disappearing local suppliers constitute a real challenge for the local economy; this fabric needs to be re-instated’. Companies’ representatives also stressed that due to austerity policies or costs optimisation, firms re-organised then qualification systems and the shortages now faced are the acute consequence of past decisions.

As argued by some firm’s representative, for aeronautics, it is essential to remain specialised. Due to the competition and the role of experience, it seems inevitable, to develop the know-how, consequently and incrementally. It takes time to build expertise, to leam from mistakes, to know the problems, and know the consequences of them. (CC10) ‘It takes years to reach high quality’.

Future Skills and Competences

Future skills and competencies (of not only white-collar aviation sector’s specialists, but also blue-collar workers) feature high on the agenda of cluster actors. The need to predict and adequately address the challenges of funire labour market necessitates the introduction of proper measures. Besides official entities tasked with such an issue (HCAT+), the cluster locally and endogenously, created a labour market with frequent job-liopping, as well as dedicated projects and programmes, all contributing to the development of future skills.

Firms’ representatives stress that there is a growing need to produce more aircraft, mainly, as the market is dominated, in fact, by two large players. Unfortunately, there seems to be a shortage of skilled workers. There is not enough supply of trained technicians, particularly qualified blue-collar staff (not white-collar engineers). Therefore, qualifications are critical for the industry, for the region and the cluster. (CC4) ‘If you are a company like Airbus, you have to react, to do something, to provide dual training like the apprenticeship. Nevertheless, to train a system engineer/mechanical engineer properly, you need at least three years. There are attempts to make up for this by offering some courses, but you cannot replace three years’ education with a narrowly defined course. Although, it can be the only feasible solution for the moment'. Besides, young people seem not interested in this type of work, as training usually implies a reduction in salary and the job offered is rarely permanent, as there are generally fixed-time contracts. It makes the jobs unattractive, as they cannot guarantee a safe and stable future for young people.

Predicting and shaping future competences and skills takes place in different dimensions. Firstly, cluster management provides multiple possibilities. There are various events, training, presentations or courses, which centre upon the improvement of soft skills, digital competences, also related to 14.0. Secondly, a vital element, in fact, available thanks to the cluster’s major attribute—co-location and proximity—is job switching. Skills not only develop via specific training or education, but also via moving from one job to another, by changing employers. It is obviously much easier within the cluster. Close localisation enables workers to change jobs between companies (job-hopping), and in fact, can strengthen the local labour market. The skills and competences acquired in that way are indeed, regarded as valuable. (COl) ‘The brain drain is there, but it is something in a net positive. Some companies lose workforce, the others gain, but it enables more adaptability to adverse shocks, and allows the region to grow’. Thirdly, there is a dedicated body the HCAT+, which is tasked with the development of new competencies, particularly in the aviation sector. Fourthly, and in relation to the latter, there are dedicated projects, which address this problem like DigiNet.Airrun (2017-2021) by HCAT+ (www.diginetair.de). DigiNet.Air brings together SMEs (responsible for developing new concepts, in terms of future work 4.0); education (schools and universities tasked with developing future-oriented and demand-driven modules of teaching new skills and competences); and technology (labs and universities, in charge of developing and testing new solutions in the 14.0 area, demonstration, prototypes). DigiNet.Air, as a unique alliance, aims at countering the negative consequences of qualified labour skills' shortages, but also to adjust the teaching and training systems to modem challenges induced by the fourth industrial revolution. It, in turn, should help local SMEs to weather the potential labour market problems and boost the competitiveness of the aviation sector in the region. HCAT+ works on various aspects of qualification in the digital era and seeks to cater to the aviation and local market needs, by flexibly and jointly figuring out solutions, and by detecting and occupying the blind spots in the German education of aviation, not covered so far by schools or firms.

Cluster members prefer to talk about the ‘brain circulation’—brain gains rather than brain loses, such as job switching might cause. Consequently, they confirm the earlier findings (Smith & Waters, 2005), which stipulate the importance of the movement of the highly skilled between local employers and the positive contribution of such rotations to the intra-regional transmission of expertise, knowledge spill-overs and the development of linkages among companies (Keeble, Lawson, Smith, Moore & Wilkinson, 1998; Storper & Scott, 1990). A high rate of intra-cluster mobility of the educated workforce, although it can bring non-trivial costs to employees or companies’ managers (Fallick, Fleischman & Rebitzer, 2006), is usually associated with shorter unemployment periods and builds endogenously, a local, specialised labour market. It often also results in collective learning processes fostering creativity and entrepreneurship. Agglomeration or more accurately, cluster improves the co-ordination of labour market, accelerates the rate of interactions and facilitates the formation of human capital (Freedman, 2008).

Multiple projects backed by industry, the city and universities serve the purpose of developing skills for the next generation of aviation specialists. The Faszinatiou Technik Klub has been set up. Lectures and events related to aviation, even for children and teenagers, are organised. DLR School Lab at the Hamburg University ofTechnology carries out technical and scientific experiments. It might mirror the fact that the necessary cluster evolution, as derived from the CLC approach, is already imprinted in HAv’s activities (Todtling, Sinozic & Auer, 2016). While HCAT+ is committed to future generation skills, the main task of another powerful actor in the region, ZAL, is to integrate these competencies within the region and its films. The importance of‘people' and ‘talents’, as one of the significant trends, including action areas such as lifelong learning, attracting talents, developing new curricula or training for today’s and future needs, can be found hr a new strategy (55th HAv Forum, 2019). It reflects the ongoing, often disruptive processes taking place in the aviation industry, transforming it into a more broadly understood mobility concept, which, characterised by consolidation, shorter life cycles and fast ageing, require agile approaches.

 
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