The 3rd annual Peterborough Aerospace Summit was held recently at the Peterborough Airport. What we know about the aerospace industry is that it’s a growing field with many opportunities for our workforce. In fact, worldwide, the staff shortages anticipated in aerospace are staggering. The industry says it will be short 800,000 pilots, 750,000 maintenance staff and about the same number in cabin crew. The positive news is that with Seneca and Fleming College along with Trent University and the Holy Cross High Skills Major program in aviation, Peterborough is in a good position to help fill the need.
It’s important to recognize the role, the return on government investment and impact the airport has in our local economy. In 2017, 730 people were employed at the airport; up from 422 in 2008. The growth in jobs is also reflected in economic impact with the airport generating $74 million in GDP in 2017 and supporting 60,000 airplane movements. Most of the work is in maintenance, refurbishment and overhaul (MRO) of airplanes and the supply chain that supports those companies.
The Peterborough Airport is also making its mark as one of 11 regional airports in the Southern Ontario Airport Network (SOAN). The group is working toward understanding and planning to help Pearson International Airport as it reaches capacity. Across the network, the regional airports support 55,000 jobs in Ontario and pay about $2.3 billion in taxes.
But at a time when the industry is taking off, there are also some barriers that need to be addressed.
Training the workforce
Experts believe building a workforce will require more co-op opportunities and awareness of the industry and potential jobs at an earlier age, perhaps Grades 5 or 6. Part of the panel discussion at the Summit identified the various types of work available in the industry from pilots to maintenance crew to finance managers, marketers and HR staff.
That said, for those looking to enter a growth industry, Canada has the 7th largest aerospace industry in the world, with 29% of Canadian aerospace jobs in Ontario. 95% of Ontario aerospace companies have fewer than 100 employees, which means an employee can potentially get in on the ground floor. These are also the types of companies that Canada needs to scale and grow in burgeoning industries with high-paying jobs.
Recently, Flying Colours Corporation announced its $30 million expansion which will include an additional 60 jobs.
Filling in the last mile
In many cases, the regional airports are geographically set apart from the community they are connected to, including Peterborough. There are currently no transit stops to this local employment hub and employees and students are walking and cycling to work. Considerations for new transit routes will help this economic driver continue to grow and open the doors for employees. Several committees examining transportation in the region have identified this issue as one that requires attention.
At the federal chamber level there is a lot of discussion around airports with a series of policy resolutions on the books from how they operate and can access funding to improving security wait times. That these discussions are constant is an indication that there is a role for air in our transportation mix and now is the time to ensure it soars.