A group of students from an all-girls school recently visited Air Canada’s Operations Centre and Maintenance hangars. As we usually do, we began by asking how many were considering a career in aviation. One timid hand went up.
It was perhaps disappointing, but not surprising, as society today faces a challenge encouraging young people, especially women, to enter careers in STEM disciplines— science, technology, engineering and math. Yet these skills are essential, not only to airlines but to any country competing in the 21st century. The Business Council of Canada, an organization of the CEOs of Canada’s largest companies, has made skills development a top priority for several years.
For 10 years, Air Canada Maintenance has run an Engineering Co-op Student Program in which students work on challenging projects for terms of up to 16 months. In 2017, we started the Workplace Integrated Learning Program, with 52 college students currently alternating between work and school terms over four semesters. Both programs offer invaluable learning experiences and give us a pipeline to recruit young talent.
We promote education in other ways too, from elementary school to higher learning. For children, we sponsor the Breakfast Clubs of Canada, which provides school breakfasts so students can focus on learning. Our Environmental Affairs department each year awards $2,000 Air Canada Sustainability Scholarships to children of employees who integrate sustainability into their studies. At higher levels, we support such initiatives as SCALE AI in Montreal and Toronto’s Vector Institute, which provide research, training and other services for the application of artificial intelligence in Canada.
Another avenue is partnering with youth development organizations. Through our Community Relations we work with such diverse groups as Indspire, the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, LOVE (Leave out Violence) and Egale. And our Business Development Team is active with university programs that celebrate academic achievement.
Still, we find the most effective way to entice students is by having them visit our facilities, where we can showcase our company, our talent and our technologies. At the end of the girls-school visit, we asked again who would consider an aviation career. Twenty seven hands shot eagerly toward the ceiling.
Calin’s column appears every month in enRoute Magazine, Air Canada’s award-winning in-flight magazine found onboard all Air Canada, Air Canada Rouge and Air Canada Express flights. This edition is from the April 2019 issue.