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McCarthy: The Futire is Now

By 2010 there will be a shortfall of about 10 million workers in the North American labour market.


September 28, 2007
By Drew McCarthy

The Canadian Aviation Maintenance Council (CAMC) was created in 1991 in
response to a critical shortage of maintenance personnel in Canada.
Fourteen years later, the shortage has proven to be both critical and
chronic.

Last
month in Montreal, CAMC held its 14th Annual AGM and Forum. The theme
of the event was “Ramping up for the Future.” Over the course of the
three-day event, emphasis fell on two crucial factors that threaten to
make the next decade even more difficult than the last.

The
first crucial factor is the changing demographic nature of Canadian
society. By 2011, almost one-fifth of baby boomers will be at least 61
years old and moving ever closer to retirement. It’s predicted that by
2008, for every North American entering the workforce, two will be
leaving, and by 2010 there will be a shortfall of about 10 million
workers in the North American labour market.

The second crucial
factor is that, according to ICAO, the world’s fleet is expected to
more than double from 12,600 aircraft in 1998 to 28,400 in 2018. If
Canada gets its share of the fleet, and it will, there will be twice as
much work for half as many people.

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The battle to fix the problem
is being waged on a number of fronts. It has long been identified that
the industry needs to increase its number of new recruits. Programs
such as CAMC’s Youth Internship Program (YIP) have been established to
address the problem, but much more needs to be done.

The
workforce shortage is not exclusive to aviation; all of Canadian
industry is affected as the competition for human resources heats up.

The
federal government has responded with proposed increases of up to 40%
in immigration over the next five years. This will help; Immigrants who
arrived in the 1990s, and were in the labour force in 2001, accounted
for almost 70% of the total growth of the labour force over the decade.
With increased immigration rates, immigration could account for
virtually all labour force growth by 2011.

Programs such as
CAMC’s Prior Learning and Foreign Credential Assessment and Recognition
System (PLFCAR) are important to help newcomers fast-track into the
workforce. Are there other options? There were few women at CAMC’s
forum and overall in the maintenance sector, female participation is
woefully low at less than 5%.

And what about those boomers on
the verge of retirement? Can the industry “step them down” and ease
experienced maintainers out of the workforce at a slower pace? Not only
would this help mitigate the impact of mass retirements but would also
allow newcomers to profit from the expertise and “war stories” of these
older workers – a benefit that simply cannot be underestimated.

Successful
employers will be those who find innovative ways to make the aviation
maintenance workplace more inviting to groups such as women and older
workers by offering flexible part-time schedules and progressive
benefits packages. There’s not much time left, the future is now.


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