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Leading Edge: Finding ‘Next Gen’ achievers

Finding dynamic, innovative employees capable of developing new systems, processes and techniques that help fuel the success of an operation for years to come is a major challenge facing aviation and aerospace companies and fixed- and rotary-wing operators of all sizes.


October 31, 2012
By Stacy Bradshaw


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Finding dynamic, innovative employees capable of developing new systems, processes and techniques that help fuel the success of an operation for years to come is a major challenge facing aviation and aerospace companies and fixed- and rotary-wing operators of all sizes. With a looming crisis of retiring pilots, maintenance workers, business operations and support staff, it’s little wonder upper management types are nervous about the prospects for the future.

In key industry roundtables this year on both the rotary- and fixed-wing side, panel members voiced their concerns about finding “Gen Next.” They also agreed one of the best ways to help alleviate the impending resource crisis is for educational institutions and industry associations to work together to properly educate the developing workforce about the opportunities available in aviation and aerospace. Romantic perceptions of commercial airline pilots jetting off to tropical locales do not accurately portray a life in aviation.

“We’ve had a lot of challenges internally, specifically with people, process and organizational hiring,” said Dave Shaver, director of business development for Toronto-based charter and aircraft management firm Chartright Air Group. “We feel some of these people could have been given additional tools to help them when they come into the marketplace so they can adjust better.”

Sam Barone, president of the Canadian Business Aviation Association, agreed, suggesting educational institutions, industry associations, aviation and aerospace companies and operators can help shape the minds of tomorrow through education and awareness. “You have to convince young people that learning to work with composites or high-end avionics is something they will enjoy doing because other sectors are competing for these younger demographic profiles as well,” said Barone. “Re-equipping aircraft is one thing, but how do we re-equip the human resource skills mix?”

To help in the process of guiding younger generations towards diverse aviation careers, Wings is once again offering its “Careers in Aviation” (CIA) guide as part of the January/February issue. This special editorial package with corresponding microsite (www.careersinaviation.ca) highlights aviation disciplines and other educational resources including flight schools, college and university programs and potential career paths. Estimated educational costs, job descriptions and more can help those interested in choosing a career in aviation or aerospace make solid choices.

To build on our successful CIA guide, Wings’ is also developing its first Aviation Career Day to run next spring. The event will feature lively educational sessions, industry speakers and a trade show to help give those bent on a career in aviation an even better opportunity to interact with those forging their paths in this exciting industry.

The introduction of another exciting project, Wings’ “Next Gen Top Achievers” special in the July/August issue (and July/August/September issue of Helicopters magazine) is also in the works. “Next Gen Top Achievers” will highlight 10 up-and-coming industry professionals in both the rotary- and fixed-wing environments who are making an impact in their given aviation streams.

While replacing an aging workforce is a daunting task, the positive news is there are many dynamic workers in the early to middle stages of their careers ready to drive the Canadian aviation and aerospace industries for years to come. The recent Northern Lights Awards in Unionville, Ont., for example, highlighted three incredible women who show the strong talent base the industry has to build on.

Georgian Bay Airways’ co-owner/chief pilot/business manager Nicole Saulnier (above left), Bombardier aerospace engineer Erika Kangas (above right) and Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources’ pilot Mary Ellen Pauli, are just three of the exceptional aviation professionals who are flourishing in a male-dominated industry.

Finding Gen Next is indeed a challenge and it won’t be easy to replace so many skilled workers across a variety of disciplines. But with the proper education, leadership initiatives and industry co-operation, Canada will continue to develop a new generation of aviation and aerospace professionals – and continue to enhance its position as a leader on the world stage.


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