Already facing labour shortage, aviation industry bracing for worse
Published Wednesday, January 10, 2018 6:12PM EST Last Updated Wednesday, January 10, 2018 6:26PM EST
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Aviation industry insiders say Canada is facing a shortage of pilots, flight attendants, mechanics and just about every job connected to the field – and it’s only expected to get worse in the next few years.
“There is a definite shortage of air pilots, but equally mechanics and maintenance staff,” Robert Donald said Wednesday in an interview.
Donald is the executive director of the Canadian Council for Aviation and Aerospace, which is putting the finishing touches on a federal government-funded study of the labour situation in the aviation industry.
He says the study will reveal “critical shortages” in both labour and skills across the sector, which he blames on factors including impending retirements of older workers, growth in the popularity of air travel itself, and Canadian workers increasingly being lured away by opportunities in other countries.
“We are not producing enough pilots or other technicians in Canada for our own needs, but there is now a global competition for talent,” he said.
Specifically, Donald forecasts a need for 7,300 new pilots and flying instructors in the country by 2025, as well as 5,300 mechanics and maintenance workers.
A shortage of pilots and instructors is already being felt at the Waterloo Wellington Flying Centre, which operates out of the Region of Waterloo International Airport.
The flight school employed 26 instructors in 2017, 18 of whom left during the year.
All of those positions have since been filled, although the pace of comings and goings is unheard of at the school.
“From what I hear, this is absolutely unprecedented in the industry,” says Shawna Atkinson, an instructor at the school.
Atkinson says finding jobs has never been difficult for young pilots, but it used to be that graduates had to reach out to airlines about opportunities themselves.
“Now we’re seeing the opposite happen. We’re seeing major airlines come to us,” she says.
“If the major airlines are looking for pilots, than that means those smaller, regional airlines are really struggling to find qualified folks.”
With reporting by Natalie van Rooy