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Robert Donald

Robert Donald

Executive Director, Canadian Council for Aviation & Aerospace (CCAA)

Kethy Sosso-Kolle Sanagré

Kethy S-K Sangaré

Project Coordinator, Canadian Council for Aviation & Aerospace (CCAA)

Canadian Council for Aviation & Aerospace (CCAA) labour market research, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, showed that Canada’s aviation and aerospace sector would need about 55,000 new workers by 2025 to keep pace with projected business growth and retirements. Domestic graduates at that time only accounted for 25% of those jobs. Since then, reductions in service due to the pandemic have narrowed this labour gap, giving Canadian companies time to rethink their approach to attracting and training new talent to reach capacity. Fortunately, the CCAA has implemented some exciting initiatives designed to close the gap, benefiting both employers and those looking for rewarding careers.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on the industry, the slow-down is providing an opportunity to respond effectively to what has been a chronic shortage of aviation and aerospace workers. “This has long been a challenge, but now we have time to build capacity and be ready for the rebound in business,” says Robert Donald, Executive Director of the CCAA. “We are continuing to work with industry and government to help support the training of the current workforce and in attracting new workers.”

More awareness and support

The workforce issue is a concern for the industry, but also for Canadian society more generally. The aviation and aerospace sectors are large contributors to the Canadian economy and when these businesses do not have the employees, they cannot meet the demand for services. Just last year, helicopters, some even used for fighting forest fires, were grounded because there were not enough pilots or maintenance engineers. Primarily, Canada needs to encourage more people to join the workforce to enable the sector to reach its potential.   

“There’s also a shortage of capacity in our colleges. The government needs to invest in expanding innovative training programs,” says Donald. “The industry is now beginning to promote itself on the national level in a unified effort rather than with only regional or company-specific campaigns, so that all Canadian young people can become familiar with the breadth of high-paying and high-tech careers in the sector.”

Donald also remarks that more outreach needs to happen to underrepresented groups, such as women, who make up only 6% of the highly skilled trades in the sector’s workforce, and Indigenous peoples, who are represented even less. The CCAA is developing tools and programs to help achieve this. 

Developing a workforce strategy together

The CCAA has worked hard to build and maintain credibility with both government and industry on the quality of its programs and initiatives, as it is the only national association in the country dedicated to attracting and developing workers with the skills the Canadian aviation and aerospace industry needs. In 2017, the Federal government (ESDC) introduced the Student Work Placement Program (SWPP) wage subsidies as an incentive for companies to hire students, with CCAA as the only SWPP Delivery Partner for the aviation and aerospace sector.

This wage subsidy program provides employers with the financial support needed to alleviate the cost of training students, while the students gain valuable paid work experience and confidence in their future employment in the sector. Employers receive up to $7,500 per work placement of a full-time or part-time student enrolled in any Canadian college or university program. The application process is simple and available online; an evaluation is usually completed within 48 hours. Funding is available year-round until March 2022.

“Over the past three years, we have worked with over 50 colleges and universities and over 70 employers — many of them small and medium-sized businesses — and provided placements for over 750 students,” says Kethy S-K Sangaré, CCAA Project Coordinator. “Without this wage subsidy program, many students would not benefit from the crucial work experience needed to successfully start a career in aviation and aerospace because of the cost barriers faced by employers when training new staff.”

S-K Sangaré adds that many students experience working in the field, return to school and become mentors to peers, which inspires them and others to keep working toward a career in aviation and aerospace. They return to school more engaged, passionate, with a clearer understanding of the practical aspects taught in school. The goal is for CCAA to provide 1,450 placements over the five-year span of the program.

Equipping students with the skills to succeed through new programs

Responding to the needs of industry is a hallmark of the CCAA, not only through its labour market intelligence reports and large suite of online and classroom courses, but also in identifying new programs. One example is the creation of courses that help employers to mentor and coach student workers.

Another example is work CCAA is doing to help graduates integrate into the aviation workplace. Students were graduating with good technical skills but didn’t always have the necessary business or soft skills, such as communications, critical thinking, and leadership, so the CCAA developed two seven-module courses that provide students (or existing workers) with these skills.

Donald stresses that jobs in aviation and aerospace are especially exciting and highly paid compared to other sectors — it is far from being only about pilots and flight attendants. “We hire for attitude, and train for skills,” he says. “And integrated learning, where students learn at college and on the job, is the way of the future. If you would like to join this industry, there is a place for you.”

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