Aviation firms compete for applicants

By Sandi Krasowski
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Chronicle-Journal

More than 22 businesses were on hand at the Confederation College’s Aviation Centre of Excellence (ACE) on Wednesday showcasing their organizations and recruiting aviation graduates.

The college’s second annual Aviation Day is aimed at connecting businesses with students and graduates from the college’s flight management and aircraft maintenance programs for employment opportunities.

Matt Bunn, the associate dean of aviation, says the event is a result of employers approaching the college to speak directly with the aviation students to introduce their company and try to draw their interest.

Bunn pointed out that aviation companies are fighting for a small pool of qualified applicants.

“From a maintenance perspective, our graduates have to complete their apprenticeship before they can get licensed,” he said. “We are finding so many employers now are super interested in hiring apprentices, letting them get their licence and hoping they’re going to stay with them.”

Steve Davey, executive vice-president and chief operating officer for Levaero Aviation, called the shortage of staff and materials “the new norm” for the industry.

“It’s crucial for us to connect with some of these graduates not only for Thunder Bay, but we have bases in other parts of Ontario and in Canada,” Davey said.

“If I look at a snapshot today, we’re not in a bad situation as far as staff levels go. But when we look forward a year, two or five years, that’s why this is so important to us. We know those gaps are coming and we need to start filling them now.”

Graduating aircraft maintenance student Rachel Perzan aspires to earn her level one and two aircraft maintenance engineer licence, which she has begun to do with Bearskin Airlines.

“They have taken me and three other apprentices on for part-time work (towards our apprenticeship) during school and I just got the word today that I get my full-time offer letter to go full time,” she said.

“It’s vital for the students to understand all of the companies that are out there and all of the various opportunities they have internally within these companies.”

Bunn noted that there is a high demand for aircraft mechanics, which he says is important for the college. The flight program fills up to a point where each year, they can’t take in any more students but there is plenty of room in the maintenance program.

Both Davey and Bunn stressed the importance of introducing high school students to the aviation industry.

The college and the Lakehead Public School Board have a partnership that provides high school students with a program to study aviation at the college’s hangar during a semester.