Thursday, August 28, 2008

Aviation industry is throttling up

The North American airline industry may be struggling under the weight of high operating costs, but it appears to be having little effect on global demand for new aircraft and skilled aerospace trade workers.

Aerospace companies have reported strong growth over the past year, even setting some records, as global demand for the next generation of airliners and business jets remains strong, according to industry data, despite current market uncertainty on the continent.

At Bombardier Inc.'s Montreal facility, the company reports 120 unfilled positions in addition to hiring 15 to 20 engineers a month and embarking on its program for new C-series aircraft, to be delivered in 2013.

In its Toronto facility, the company delivered more jets in 2007-08 fiscal year -- 232 business jets -- compared to the 212 the previous year. Seattle-based Boeing Co., meanwhile, set a new record by delivering 1,413 commercial airplanes in 2007, surpassing its previous record of 1,044 in 2006.

"As Bombardier transitions to a more international customer base that features less emphasis on the U.S. as well as a structural shift toward larger and more cost-effective aircraft . . . business jets and commercial aircraft are expected to continue to generate strong interest across all markets," says a spokesperson for Bombardier.

Aging demographics and a strong appetite for new commercial aircraft, as well as a surge in demand for smaller business jets bodes well for workers who specialize in skilled aerospace trades.

The jobs in highest demand include aircraft and avionics maintenance specialists, assemblers, machinists, mechanics, painters and composite specialists. "We will need more employees specialized in composite manufacturing . . . as we develop aircraft with more composite components," says the Bombardier spokesperson.

Aerospace training schools, meanwhile, are competing for the best candidates.

At Centennial College's Toronto campus, for example, administrators took in 954 applications in their aircraft maintenance and avionics maintenance diploma programs for 180 available seats.

"I don't see any decline in the need for employment," says Michelle DeCoste, dean, school of continuing education and industry training. She says the programs had a 96.6 per cent employment rate for its last round of graduates.

"I think the aging population is going to be a struggle for us and I think it's creeping up on us much sooner than we may have been willing to admit."

Bombardier's industry data reveals the average annual demand for business jets was 620 from 1998-2007. It predicts that number will soar to 1,320 per year from 2008-17.

© The Calgary Herald 2008
source: Aviation industry is throttling up, Canada