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Hamilton Careers in Aviation Expo educates, excites

February 9, 2015  By Matt Nicholls

dscn6272Feb. 9, 2015, Hamilton, Ont. - So what does it take to make your mark in the world of aviation and aerospace? It’s all about having a flexible, hardworking, “can do” attitude while being as resilient and proactive as possible. And if you really want to make your mark, copious quantities of passion for your chosen field goes a long way.

This was the overriding message conveyed by a selection of industry experts during Wings and Helicopters third annual Careers in Aviation Expo Saturday, February 7 at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton. Some 160 air cadets, high school and college students and career seekers descended on the iconic site for a fast-paced day of learning, education and more.

“I think one of the great things about this event is it gives students of all levels a chance to learn about a variety of aviation and aerospace careers all in one spot,” said Glen Lynch, president and CEO of Montreal-based GAL Aerospace, one of the panelists in the afternoon session concentrating on varied aviation professions. One of the things that the team at Wings and Helicopters has done so effectively here is bring together experts in a variety fields to show students that there a whole selection of professions out there to chose from. Yes, there are certainly pilots, but there are many other options as well.”


The day-long event feature four educational panels including helicopter and fixed wing pilots of varying disciplines; education and flight training; various aviation professional such as TSB inspector, air traffic controller, aviation sales, marketing and more; and maintenance and aerospace opportunities and educational paths.


The day also featured countless networking opportunities for young adults, as panelists and exhibitors shared key industry information with young aviators. Students also had the opportunity to tour the fabulous Warplane Heritage Museum site and hop aboard a Pilatus PC-12NG, a mainstay in many Canadian operator fleets.


Topics of discussion throughout the day ran the gamut, including cost of education for an aviation education, what skills students need to succeed in their given field of choice, hot trends in the industry, challenges students might need to anticipate and overcome, opportunities for women in aviation, composite technology and the skills needed to work with new materials and so much more. Students even had the opportunity to meet and listen to a real rocket scientist – MDA’s Natalie Panek, who made several astute points about how young women can make their mark in the industry.

One of the key messages reinforced throughout the day by panelists was aspiring students need to differentiate themselves from their competition through out all stages of career development. Volunteering, finding ways to make your mark with an aviation operation, augmenting your development in any way – it all sets you apart from the competition when you are just starting out.

“Differentiating yourself and showing that passion, any way that you can get ahead in someone’s eyes will go a long way in your development,” said Mike Schuster, a captain with Porter airlines and the founder/director of operations with Aviation Solutions, a company designed to help aviation firms enhance operations. “You really stand out in your career development at all levels when you do those extra things. If that means in your first job your day is done, but you are out there helping someone else tie down an airplane and secure it for the night or you are handy with books and you offer your boss the chance to help out with the manuals – anything that can help you make a mark, do it. It’s all word of mouth in this industry, it’s very small, everyone knows one another. So, whenever I receive a resume from someone, I don’t call the reference they send in – I call someone I know where they worked and get the scoop.”


Future aviation professionals might also want to concentrate on developing their math skills and also pay close attention to soft skills such as the ability to cooperate, their ability to work well as a team, and the ability to adapt and be flexible in all aspects of career and work opportunities.

“You can’t under estimate the importance of soft skills in this business,” said Tery Lebel, Captain and Councellor with the Canadian Armed Forces Recruiting Centre in Hamilton. Lebel has flown a number of aircraft in the RCAF, including a stint with the famed Snowbirds. “It is absolutely critical, you can’t under estimate the need for sound soft skills, especially given the fact that it is a team environment and everyone is operating in the same direction. Profit margins in this industry are razor thin on the commercial side and you can’t have someone on the team that is diverting from the group, who isn’t moving in the same direction as everyone else. If you start taking off in the wrong direction, you are not going to cut it. Same thing in the military, we have a job to do, we have missions to fly, often in dangerous environments. Everyone has got to be pulling in the same direction. I don’t want to beat up on the passion word, but that’s what a lot of it has to do with. You have to have it, and you have to be focused and realize this profession is not just about money.”


The CIA Expo in Hamilton was just one of three careers events Wings and Helicopters team will be hosting in 2015. On Saturday, February 21, the team heads to Ottawa for its second event of the year at the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum. On Saturday, April 11, the team sets up in Calgary at the Calgary Aero Space Museum. For more information, please visit http://www.careersinaviation.ca/expo/.


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