It’s no secret there’s a desperate shortage of workers in Canada’s aviation industry. The BC Institute of Technology, which runs one of two airport operations programmes in the country, says more than 5,000 jobs will need to be filled in the coming years.
Yet, there is a giant, largely untapped pool of talent just waiting to seize the right opportunity: women. And one group aims to make sure they are taking full advantage.
Elevate Aviation, a non-profit organization, has launched a new learning centre at the Edmonton International Airport – the first of its kind in the country. The group’s mission is simple, to give women a platform to thrive through aviation, and yet frustratingly hard to achieve.
Women represent more than half the Canadian population, yet Elevate estimates only five per cent of commercial airline pilots are women. In other sectors, the numbers are just as bleak – only 16 per cent of air traffic controllers are women, and just 11 per cent of aerospace engineers.
“Our vision is to be a primary provider of aviation career support for women,” said Kendra Kincade, an air traffic controller and founder and chair of Elevate Aviation, in a statement.
Elevate is trying to attract women aged 15-24 into aviation, by letting them experience the industry through real-world settings. The organization plans to set up workshops right in workplaces so potential employers can meet young women face-to-face, as they are about to make career decisions.
Their mission received a major boost Wednesday, when the government of Alberta committed $236-thousand. It’s also supported by partnerships with NavCanada, Edmonton International Airport, the Royal Canadian Air Force, the Edmonton Flying Club, Canadian North and North Cariboo Air.
The partners get to highlight their opportunities to an eager audience. And they get to meet prospective candidates early on, and help collaborate on their education and carreer choices.
“We are promoting this progressive and creative method of encouraging and recruiting women and under represented groups into dynamic careers in the aviation sector,” said Tom Ruth, president and CEO of Edmonton International Airport. “I am thrilled to see that this program has a focus on engaging participants from rural, urban and indigenous communities.”
Statistics Canada says, despite some changes over the past 20 years, women are still heavily represented in the service sector – such as travel agencies and flight attendants – where employees are paid far less for their work than male-dominated professions.
“The aviation industry is facing a significant labour shortage,” said Kincade. “The exposure and recruiting opportunities these career exploration workshops will offer will be huge for the industry.”