Canadian Council for Aviation and Aerospace (CCAA)
In 1993, following a three year study of the Aviation industry workforce by Price Waterhouse Coopers, the Canadian Council for Aviation and Aerospace (CCAA) was founded to help provide the industry with a highly skilled workforce, in order to ensure its promising future in a globally competitive environment. CCAA’s initial focus was on the Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO), segment of the industry; however, in 2010, the CCAA’s mandate was expanded to include all sectors of the industry –air operators (fixed wing and rotary), manufacturers, MRO, business jets and airports. Today, they work diligently to set a global example for the industry, providing extensive knowledge regarding skills development, as well as the human resource needs of the industry.
“Everything we do starts with labour market information (LMI)” says Executive Director Robert Donald. “We’ve done many studies for the government over the years assessing the labour market needs in our industry. We are currently engaged in a three-year project to conduct the most comprehensive labour market study ever done for our sector. Many organizations do studies focusing on the economic impact of the industry, or particular segments of it, but we are one of the few who report on labour market data.
The role of the CCAA is to look at current trends in demographics, labour and skill sets, as well as the impact of new technologies and college programs, to see what may need to be improved to help industry ensure it has enough workers with the right skills. The first report from the current ongoing LMI study was published earlier this year, a second report will be published before the end of the year.
Through the LMI studies, Industry tells us what is needed in terms of national standards, (known as either occupational standards or competency profiles).” says Donald. “The standards are not a job description – they are 50 to 250-page documents describing what it takes to be competent in over 30 trades or professions, such as a gas turbine technician or avionics technician.” By way of example, following the first ever study of Canadian airports in 2012, industry determined there was a lack of national standards for airport workers, especially in relation to “airside workers”. Donald explains that with funding from the Federal Government, and together with representatives from Canadian airports, the CCAA developed an occupational standard for airside workers.
With close to 140 corporate industry partners across the country, it is important to maintain a consistent evaluation process for the work force. The CCAA uses logbooks and evaluators, as well as exams, peer reviews and recognized training to certify the competence and professionalism of workers. One of many advantages of being “certified” is that employees are recognized as being competent all across Canada. For corporations, having a certified workforce provides them with a competitive advantage when bidding for contracts.
“One of the things that the study back in ’91 said was that there was a need for national training programs– national curricula,” says Donald. “So, how does one ensure that colleges are teaching students what industry needs them to know? Well, you’ve got the occupational standards developed by industry and, not surprisingly, we then take that and work with colleges to develop curricula which align with the standards. These curricula are used by colleges across the country so that if you’re hiring a graduate from Québec or British Columbia and the college is using the national curricula, you know what they’ve been taught.” The CCAA also undertakes “accreditation” of college programs. “Many colleges use our curricula, but some of them go further and are accredited by us, which means that we go in and audit them and make sure that their professors, their equipment, their training control manual – all of those things – meet the national standard, and that industry can be assured that graduates coming out of that program meet a high standard.”
Another important part of CCAA’s work is training. Industry training needs often revolve around regulatory changes – such as the introduction by Transport Canada of Safety Management Systems (SMS) – or technological advancement (e.g. the expanding use of composites). In order to assist industry, the CCAA developed short, sharp focus training for those who are already in the workforce. “We’ve developed a very significant training capacity,” says Donald. “In the last year, we have also started to deliver training internationally. We were down in Panama with some of our team delivering training for the national air carrier; we were hired by one of the largest MROs in Brazil to provide online training; and a major aerospace company out of France has just started using our online tools this year as well. So, that’s quite exciting for us.”
Donald believes that the ongoing relationships with both the government and industry associations are “absolutely crucial” to CCAA’s work. “Among other things, the associations help us collect and disseminate information,” he says. “They were crucial in gathering support for the labour market study we’re doing. So, our relationships with the associations is important – but, equally important is our relationships with colleges, labour, and our corporate partners. In terms of our relationship with government, we do work closely with them, and they are crucial to our success as well. We work closely with Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC); Transport Canada, Innovation Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) as well as with Canada’s– the trade commissioner service ( DFAIT ), which helps promote our services internationally.”
When asked about key issues for the industry Donald noted that the perspective often differs within each sector of the industry. “The Aerospace Industries Asociation of Canada (AIAC) has its list of priorities, as do the Helicopter Association of Canada (HAC), the Canadian Business Aviation Association (CBAA) and Air Transport Association of Canada (ATAC). But, for CCAA, the overarching issue is always skills development and human resources; ensuring that we continue to have a highly skilled work force in Canada, and innovative training, curricula and programs for industry.
At the moment CCAA is very focused on working with industry on development of innovative, new curricula and training programs. “We’ve been working with different aerospace and aviation clusters across the country to map out and develop new programs. Some of them will be six months, and some of them will be four year programs, including the work portion; but, we see a significant demand for these types of programs.” said Donald. Canada is fifth in the world in aerospace manufacturing – we have slid from fourth. We saw a wave of offshoring in the past– because, bluntly, the cost of labour is cheaper in some jurisdictions. But, the high skilled work force here more than compensates for it today– and we’re seeing some of that work come back. We need to make sure that’s the case going forward, and that we continue to avoid offshoring of manufacturing jobs and continue to bring some back that have gone in the past.” If we want to keep the jobs here, we need to continue to invest in the workforce.
Donald expressed his thanks to CCAA’s dedicated Board of Directors and for the support it receives from its Corporate Partners.
A trained aviation lawyer, Donald has formerly served as the General Counsel for the International Air Transport Association (IATA) – the world’s largest airline trade association and continues to practice law as Counsel for the renowned DLA Piper Global Law Firm. He was “lucky enough” to join the CCAA in January of 2008, “It’s been an incredibly rewarding journey, and continues to be so as we grow and evolve,” he says.