Editorial: March-April 2015

Finding a Solution – Helping to Ignite the Careers of Young Aviators
Matt Nicholls
March 05, 2015
By
At the conclusion of our recent successful Careers in Aviation Expo (CIA) in Ottawa at the Canada Aviation and Space museum, I took some quiet moments to tour and marvel at the many achievements of Canadian aviators.

The museum, like other venues across the nation, offers a treasure trove of aviation, aerospace and space achievements too impressive to properly quantify. Displays spanning the years from early aviation to bush flying to military aircraft and space flight help underscore the achievements of Canadian aviation and aerospace leaders and the companies they work for.

My ever-so-brief tour also helped reaffirm the importance of why we created our CIA Expos in the first place. Our 2015 events in the GTA, Ottawa and Calgary were created to ignite the passions of students and air cadets across the nation and educate them on the various career options available in this dynamic industry.

Why is this so important? As much as the exhibits at Canada’s various aviation and aerospace museums highlight Canada’s achievements from the past, they also remind us of the important developmental and leadership position we hold on the global stage today – and the numbers tell the story.

Canada’s aerospace industry, for example, is an important contributor to the Canadian economy in terms of employment, innovation, productivity, research and development, GDP and trade. With more than 700 companies employing some 172,000 Canadians, it contributes $28 billion to the GDP on an annual basis. Canada also ranks third in global civil aircraft production activity, first in global productivity and fifth in GDP and revenues.

When you factor in the vast number of helicopter and fixed wing operators nationwide, driving the economic engine, keeping the blades turning to drive key industries such as oil and gas, manufacturing, mining, construction and more . . . it’s truly awe inspiring.

Finding skilled, competent, driven and passionate young aviators to keep the industry soaring is one of the biggest challenges facing aviation and aerospace in the years ahead. With a large contingent of retiring workers in a variety of disciplines, new strategies will be needed to keep the pipeline strong.

Of course, replacing highly-skilled workers and meeting future demands for new aviation and aerospace personnel is certainly not unique to Canada. It’s a global issue and is underscored in a new report by the Aeronautical Repair Station (ARSA) and the Aviation Technician Education Council (ATEC) in the United States.

The report notes that in the face of expanding global markets and increased demand for a highly-skilled, government-certificated labour force, businesses must overcome the looming retirements of more experienced employees, skill gaps, regulatory limitations on training programs and – most importantly – data sources that are inadequately designed for defining the problem. Educationally institutions, governments and industry must also forge collaborative partnerships to help gain traction on this issue.

“This report is all about defining a problem: the desperate need for more qualified, well-trained men and women to funnel into aviation careers,” Ryan Goertzen, president of ATEC and the Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology said. “We all have a passion for aviation, of course, but first and foremost we have a responsibility to our students. We know we’re giving them valuable skills and preparing them for success in a number of technical fields, but for us true success is getting our graduates employed in the aerospace industry. The report provides a refreshing perspective and offers strategies to help replenish a diminishing skilled workforce, topics many of the panelists from the various institutions, associations and businesses featured at our CIA Expos in Hamilton and Ottawa wholeheartedly endorsed.

“We all share a responsibility to educate future generations in choosing careers in aviation,” Mike Whitter, professor of aircraft x-maintenance at Canadore College in North Bay, Ont., noted. “It’s indeed a collaborative effort and events like this help bring students and industry together. It’s nice to see companies like Wings and Helicopters take a leadership role in this area.”

Driving the future success of the industry through learning and career enrichment. It’s indeed a shared responsibility, but also a privilege and an opportunity – one that will help fuel Canadian aviation, aerospace achievement and success for years to come.


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