by Heidi Riley
At the recent 2022 Atlantic Canada Aerospace & Defence Association (ACADA) Sea to Sky Conference in Brudenell, four young people with diverse backgrounds and experiences were invited to take part in a discussion about attracting and retaining young people to the industry.
“We are interested in finding out what influences help youth make career decisions,” says Mark Kotzer, Director of Business Transformation and Continuous Improvement at Ultra Maritime, who moderated the panel.
The youth panel
International student overcomes job search challenges
Raquel Buckton is a Continuous Improvement Technologist with IMP Aerospace & Defense. Raquel is responsible for analyzing processes and using Lean techniques to implement long-term solutions to address inefficiencies.
Raquel has a background in quality assurance and continuous improvement from working in the oil and gas industry. She moved from Brazil to Nova Scotia in 2019 and graduated from the Industrial Engineering Technology Program at NSCC. “I moved here with my partner, and we plan to stay in Nova Scotia,” says Raquel.
“International students face a lot of social, financial and language barriers. When I was looking for work, my first job interview lasted just three minutes. When the recruiter heard I did not have permanent residency status, I was told I was not eligible for security clearance. After doing some research, I learned that I was eligible, and my mentor encouraged me to apply to another company. At the next job interview, the recruiter was well aware that I was eligible, and I got the job.
“I feel that employers should look for more information and know the facts about the eligibility of foreign students. That knowledge would help companies hire more foreign students.
“I think students should be introduced to careers in aerospace before they are in high school. They need to see examples of people successfully working in different industries so that they can see what the career possibilities are.
“I think that teachers are great partners in influencing students’ career decisions, and mentors are also very important. When I was in the oil and gas industry, some co-workers made me aware of other career options based on my work experience that influenced my decision to try the aerospace industry. A mentor can help to expand your network and can be very helpful for something as simple as looking at my resumé and cover letter.”
Raquel says that the aerospace industry can engage more students by promoting networking events that introduce students to people in the industry who can share their work experiences. She also encourages companies to volunteer to become mentors to support students.
“My most important consideration when applying for a job is the company’s culture and values, followed by work flexibility, pay and benefits, work location, and working on cool company products or services. The flexibility of different work hours and working from home is very important when I want to visit my family in Brazil and work while I am away.
“To attract more young people to aerospace, the industry should consider the unique abilities of the Gen Z generation. We really value work/life balance, implementing new technology, and future career prospects. Mentoring is also something that our generation is looking for. We need to be able to ask for guidance from more senior people.
“It is also important to see females in leadership positions in the aerospace industry. It is good to see how women bring a different perspective and can contribute to the workplace.”
Co-op program helps international student gain work experience
Dylan Enright had a summer co-op position as a Marketing & Events Assistant with the Atlantic Canada Aerospace and Defence Association (ACADA). He is in his fourth year at Dalhousie University, majoring in International Business with a minor in Mandarin.
“I grew up in Hong Kong and spoke Mandarin, so I want to use that as an asset. I will graduate in April 2023, and I hope to find work in China. However, considering the current climate with COVID and other restrictions, I may try to find work in the Atlantic provinces.
“I wanted to be in a co-op program because it is a great chance to get my degree while also getting relevant work experience in my field. Working at ACADA was my first experience in Aerospace and Defence, and I have found it to be a very exciting and intriguing industry.
“I think the best time to reach out to introduce students to careers in aerospace is when they are in grade 9. There are many ways to influence students to choose a career, including online content and talking to people in the industry.
“The Aerospace and Defence industry sounds very cool and intriguing, which will encourage students to pursue it. I think companies can attract university students by something as simple as a poster in a faculty building.
“My biggest priority when choosing an employer to work for is pay, followed by company culture and values, benefits, work location, flexibility, and cool company services and products.
“I think you can get more youth into the aerospace industry, but the idea seems very daunting to many students. Building a good on-boarding program for young people coming into the industry should be a point of emphasis.”
Islander graduates from two technical programs and gains a career in Aerospace
Clark Murphy is an Apprentice Machinist with StandardAero. He is a graduate of the Holland College Precision Machinist class of 2021 and the Aircraft Turbine Technician class of 2022. Clark is from PEI and plans to stay on the Island.
“I always liked working with my hands when I was growing up,” says Clark. “In high school, I took automotive courses, and my high school automotive teacher suggested the idea of a career in aerospace.”
He had enrolled in the Holland College Aircraft Turbine Technician program, but the program was cancelled for the 2020-2021 year due to the impact of COVID-19. A counsellor at Holland College encouraged him to consider the Machinist program instead. “I really enjoyed that course, and then I took the Aircraft Turbine program the next year.
“I think the best time to plant the idea about careers in Aerospace is in grade 10, because that is when students are deciding on courses to take in grades 11 and 12. I do not think using online content is the best way to influence young people to choose a career – kids my age have a short attention span, and will quickly click away from an online ad. It is more effective to talk to instructors, people working in the industry, and guidance counsellors.”
Clark listed pay as the most important consideration when choosing a position. “Benefits are also very important, now that I am not covered under my parents’ plan anymore.
“Particularly for youth, aerospace and defense is such an engaging industry. As high school students choose their courses, it is important to make them aware of all the different ways they can get into the industry and to keep all possible pathways to a career open.
“The industry should try to make aerospace more accessible to young people who may not know much about it. They may think that aerospace is way over their heads, but if you show someone that with the right training they could succeed in this industry, it would give them more confidence.”
Aiming to combine careers in Engineering and in the Reserves
Sub-Lieutenant Hugh McDonald is a Logistics Officer with HMCS Queen Charlotte, the Naval Reserve Division in Charlottetown. He graduated from the UPEI Engineering program in 2021. Afterward, he began working with the Naval Reserve to complete his Logistics Officer training.
“I decided to join the Reserves after seeing a poster asking if I was willing and able to work hard and push myself and meet the challenge of the Naval Reserves. As well, naval officers were in my family, so it seemed like a good fit. I welcomed basic training and I took it as a personal challenge, both physical and mental.”
This fall, he is returning to the Master’s in Engineering program at Queens University in Ontario. “I have family roots in the eastern Ontario area and in Kinkora PEI as well,” says Hugh. “I enjoyed living on PEI for the past five years, and I love the calm and relaxing lifestyle here. I will choose to live either in eastern Ontario or on PEI.”
He hopes to someday work in engineering while continuing to serve with the Naval Reserve part-time. “In my experience, people are very appreciative of employers who give their staff leave to serve with the Naval Reserves part-time. They feel more loyal to that organization and feel more respected as a reservist and a professional.
“I think the best time to introduce students to careers in aerospace is in grades 10 to 12. Giving a tour of company facilities will show them that the study of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math is super cool. In my first year in the Engineering program, I did a tour of MDS Coatings in Summerside, which was very eye-opening. It was exciting to see that a small company in Summerside can manufacture and sell products to the world.
“Bringing in speakers in high school is also very effective. When someone shares their enthusiasm with the kids, it makes a difference. Co-op programs and family influence are also important. I think it would be difficult to influence a person’s career decisions using online channels.”
When asked to list his priorities when choosing a company to work for, Hugh listed them in order of importance: benefits, pay, being involved in making a cool product, company culture and values, work location, and work flexibility. “Benefits are often overlooked as part of the compensation package. Having good dental and health coverage for myself and my family, as well as RRSP contribution matching is a great way to attract new employees.”
Hugh’s advice to companies that are hiring is all about clear communication. “Let people know right away if they are not a good fit and keep in touch with the successful candidate. I am an ambitious person, and I would appreciate a company that shows a clear path of how to move up in the organization.”
Hugh also had this advice to companies: make sure the job description is accurate, try to retain employees, and if they do leave, make sure they leave with a positive experience.