At the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International
Airport, CVG, many first-time visitors to the airport are often surprised
to learn that, despite being Cincinnati and Southwest Ohio’s primary
commercial service airport, the airport itself is physically located in
Northern Kentucky. While CVG now serves nearly nine million passengers
and has experienced 16% year-over-year growth in annual total passengers
in 2017 and 11% growth in the same metric for 2018, the airport’s
recent growth is a story also deeply rooted in air cargo success.
Eight Is Not Enough
According to Airports Council International,
CVG is ranked as North America’s eighth-largest cargo airport. In
2018, the airport handled over 1.2 million tons of air cargo and freight,
representing a 19% year-over-year increase. Over the last several years,
CVG has consistently been ranked as one of the fastest-growing cargo airports
in North America, and air cargo now accounts for nearly 60% of all landed
weight at the airport.
What factors are contributing to this phenomenal
period of growth? First, CVG has been home to one of three global “super
hubs” for DHL since 2009. The CVG hub is the second-largest in the
DHL system, ranking after Leipzig, Germany, but ahead of Hong Kong. DHL’s
operation accommodates about 96 daily flights. As of 2018, DHL directly
employs more than 4,200 at its hub. Since the hub’s opening a decade
ago, more than $280 million has been invested in eight distinct capital
expansion projects. This sustained partnership has allowed both the airport
and DHL to continuously grow.
Amazon Joins Landscape
What’s more, in January 2017, Amazon
announced it had selected CVG to build its $1.5 billion air cargo hub.
Flight and sortation operations began in May 2017 out of the DHL facility,
and Amazon broke ground on its dedicated facilities in May 2019. Its first
phase is scheduled to open in the third quarter of 2021 and, at opening,
will have about 2,000 positions for hire. The airport’s strength
in the air cargo industry, including having a capable and trained workforce,
was cited as one of the reasons Amazon selected CVG for siting its hub
Don’t Forget AeroTerm
But beyond DHL and Amazon, FedEx, too, maintains a base at CVG, and in
fall 2019, AeroTerm cut the ribbon on a 60,000 square foot general-use
cargo facility at CVG with FedEx as the anchor tenant. Another project
currently underway is an aircraft maintenance hangar developed by Lynxs
for FEAM Aero, which will provide wide-body aircraft maintenance support
to cargo operators at CVG. This $19 million investment will create 100
new positions, in addition to the existing base of 100 mechanics already
employed by FEAM at CVG.
All of these new developments and growth
by existing air cargo players help sustain a $4.4 billion (and growing)
annual economic impact from CVG to the Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky
region. As of early 2019, the airport has issued more than 14,000 badges
to individuals. As a result of the growth and planned future needs of
airport companies, CVG’s leadership team has doubled-down on strategies
surrounding a key focus area: workforce.
All About People Badges Of Pride
Without great people and capacity in the regional labor pool, the key
ingredient to fueling more growth now and in the years to come is missing.
While CVG’s overall growth in the
last several years has underscored that workforce development would be
an ongoing challenge, DHL’s rapid growth and Amazon’s announcement
of its air hub project in 2017 created a new sense of urgency around the
issue. While CVG itself (airport owner/operator) employs about 450 and
is not responsible for recruitment, hiring, and retention of all 14,000
badge holders, leadership recognized the airport would need to play a
more active role in overall campus-wide workforce development.
Strategic Workforce Collaborative
So, in fall 2018, the airport created the
CVG Strategic Workforce Collaborative or SWC. The SWC was designed to
function as an employer collaborative for all companies on campus, not
just cargo operators, but the largest-volume demand and need was identified
with larger players like DHL and Amazon.
Meeting regularly throughout the year,
the CVG SWC provides a forum for campus employers to share best practices
and strategies to attract, retain, and elevate a diversity of talent.
In addition, one CVG staff member in the Human Resources Department has
half of their time devoted to supporting this initiative and overall workforce
development needs on campus.
The SWC was a result, not only of CVG leadership
recognizing a need, but also of taking action based on employer demand.
While various airport employers may be industry competitors, there has
been broad recognition that so-called “wage wars” and other
recruitment tactics that simply move one employee across campus to another
job does nothing to help grow the workforce in total. The CVG employer
base recognized that successful long-term strategies involve collaboration
and joint efforts to address employee recruitment and retention to the
And Now Some Results
Already within a year, this collaboration
has yielded impressive results. Beyond most of the core employer group
(largest employee volumes and most critical to daily airport operations)
participating regularly in SWC meetings, there are several SWC-led initiatives
that have already been accomplished and are showing an impact.
In November 2018, a career coaching event
was held on campus specifically tailored to companies wanting to recruit
and engage with U.S. military veterans. In spring 2019, the Kentucky Career
Center, a regional on-site employment and re-employment office, was opened
in the main CVG Terminal; this, as well as the SWC office, forms the CVG
Career Center and offers prospective employees a single on-campus location
for hiring, and it also gives campus employers a shared physical space
to conduct position interviews.
In summer 2019, an online job portal was
developed by CVG to create a digital one-stop for all on-campus career
opportunities. For instance, a local resident may have known about job
offerings at DHL and have searched DHL’s career website, but they
may not know that FEAM Aero also operates at CVG and would have missed
searching FEAM’s job website. The jobs.cvgairport.com
micro-site aggregates all campus employer jobs into one view, searchable
and filter-enabled, and then redirects to the employer’s job application
system, once an individual is ready to apply.
Move To Educational Pipeline
Another focus of the SWC is to engage with
schools and colleges to make sure the talent pipeline in the Cincinnati/Northern
Kentucky region is exposed to and engaged with career opportunities in
aviation, at the airport, and in the air cargo industry. Career tours
of the airport (and of employer operations) are given regularly.
One tour in November 2018, for instance,
drew more than 100 local high school students for a half-day career exploration
tour. Some colleges and technical schools partner with CVG to offer associate’s,
bachelor’s, and master’s degree programs to CVG campus employees
CVG has begun to develop career pathways related to aviation and air cargo
in conjunction with local schools. In partnership with one school district,
the SWC helped bring together CVG, DHL, and Atlas/Southern Air to form
a transportation/supply chain curriculum to implement in that school system.
This partnership also will expand into joint career pathing; secondary
school partners help develop entry-level and frontline employees, and
in that exposure, these efforts also grow the pool of potential recruits
that are technically trained, ensuring all areas of expertise required
for cargo operations have labor pipelines. Capturing the attention of
students early on about the prospects of a career in aviation is a key
focus for the SWC; this ensures a pipeline of workers that can create
continued success at CVG.
The Rest of the Story
So, while the SWC has been successful to
date in creating and leading initiatives designed to welcome and retain
diverse talent, much work lies ahead to measure impact and quantify success
in terms of meeting existing and future employer labor demands. As CVG’s
leadership has identified, the airport will continue to be a regional
jobs hub and economic engine only if the workforce, the people, behind
the growth are available, trained, and flourish. CVG is truly embracing
what’s next by stepping up in a variety of ways to meet this challenge
as an opportunity to collaborate.
Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky Airport opened
the CVG Career Center in the main terminal in partnership with the Kentucky
With thousands at the airport every day,
kudos to CVG Strategic Workforce Collaborative, which saw a lightbulb
shining above the throng for a diverse, fluid, intriguing, jobs outreach
CVG Career Center is open for business Monday
through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.
Jobs include customer service in food and
beverage or retail, aircraft maintenance, logistics and airline support
The CVG Career Center is an initiative bringing
airport employers together to share job opportunities and best practices
to ensure a strong workforce.
Individuals interested in pursuing a career
at the airport should call 859-767-6952 or view current job listings at