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CIA Expo a hit in chilly Calgary

Old man winter may have decided his wintery grasp was not quite done with Calgary last week, but the chill in the air couldn’t deter the spirits of more than 150 attendees at Wings and Helicopters Careers in Aviation (CIA) Expo on Saturday, May 14.


May 16, 2016
By Matt Nicholls

The boisterous event took place at the snazzy WestJet Campus and featured a variety of sessions meant to give young adults – and those seeking career changes – the chance to network and mingle with some of the leading minds in a variety of aviation and aerospace disciplines including: fixed wing pilots; maintenance and aerospace engineers and completion specialists; navigation services, safety and quality experts and business aviation gurus; and rotary pilots and operational leaders.

Attendees also had a chance to interact with some 25 exhibitors from a number of leading educational institutions and other prominent Canadian aviation and aerospace companies.

The event kicked off with a spirited “CIA safety check” from a pair of WestJetters – flight attendant Jocelyn Lalonde and turn around crew agent Tyler Blum – before WestJet Encore president Ferio Pugliese took to the stage to share the WestJet story and what it’s like to be a change leader at one of the country’s leading aviation companies.

Pugliese also offered some industry perspective and sound insights into trends driving industry and what skills aspiring aviators need to succeed. Staying attentive to customer needs and finding new ways to deliver value were critical messages and something aspiring aviators should always be aware of.

“I am very passionate about people, I am very passionate about the role that culture and engagement plays in organizations,” Pugliese said. “I am very intrigued by organizations that are customer driven and by the role corporate leadership plays in delivering value to their customers. The aviation industry is a great example of this.”

Aviation is also about safety, efficiency and time management and finding ways to work within the demands of a rapidly-changing environment – so being flexible, forward thinking and positive will pave the way to success, Pugliese noted. Opportunities are also not confined to the cockpit of an aircraft – companies across the country are seeking leadership agents who will shape companies and help implement change.

Flexibility, passion and an open-mindedness to new opportunity and adventure were other key themes emerging from the four panel sessions during the day. Several panelists used the phrase “a can do attitude” in describing taking on new responsibilities, as well as the realization that your career path will indeed be a journey – aviation and aerospace is not a desk job per se, but one that will bring a variety of experiences in possibly many roles over the course of your career.

And that means, you may be leading a life jumping from outpost to outpost in the Far North, or working in a position with non-traditional 9-to-5 structure. You may even find yourself away from the confines of the Great White North – so don’t get used to that Tim Horton’s double double in the morning.

“So many businesses are expanding internationally, aviation really has a global scope,” noted Field Aviation’s Chad Conroy, one of the CIA’s maintenance and aerospace panelists. “New graduates and young aviation and aerospace professionals need not just look within Canadian borders – there are plenty of opportunities in the Middle East and China.”

Rapidly changing technologies and the advent of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and unmanned aerial systems (UASs) offer other opportunities. “We’re just scratching the service this area in many ways,” noted Neil Lavoie, chair of Red River College’s aviation and aerospace programs. “As more and more operations understand the value UAVs can bring, the opportunities will be there. And that also means from an educational perspective with training and educational development.”

Fred Jones, president/CEO of the Helicopter Association of Canada, ironed home the point in the rotary wing session, that aviation is foremost the ability to adapt and change – and safety remains paramount. “The opportunities are there,” noted Jones, “but it takes initiative, drive and ingenuity to succeed. And don’t under estimate the importance of the soft skills. They are inherently critical in establishing a sound connection with your employer and client.”

All told, it was a productive day for attendees and exhibitors alike. As one attendee noted in an email after the event: “I really appreciate the job all of the organizers did in putting this event on. It was so very useful. The questions and follow up to all of the panelist led to extremely enlightening and second to none advises and recommendations.”