Andre Leroux has always been fascinated with taking things apart and putting them back together.
His job is one of the most detail oriented imaginable. It is among the most in-demand occupations in the trades and technical world today.
It’s also one of the many careers people can learn about when they visit one of the region’s longest-running career fairs next month.
“I get to work on some of the world’s most incredible aircraft, doing everything from routine checks to big conversions that would have blown my mind as a kid. It’s amazing.”
A few short years ago Penticton-born Leroux was honing his skills in the Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (AME) Structures program at Okanagan College.
Through the window of the College’s AME-S lab at the Kelowna airport, Leroux had a view to a hangar filled with multi-million-dollar aircraft he hoped to work on one day. That day came sooner than he ever expected.
The hangar through the window belongs to KF Aerospace, Kelowna’s largest private-sector employer. Leroux interviewed with the company shortly before graduation. Days later, certificate in hand, he joined KF Aerospace’s team of skilled AME-S technicians.
“I learned the theory and the hands-on skills of the trade, and then I stepped right into it and I’ve kept learning ever since. It’s a fast-paced job and there’s always a new skill to pick up along the way.”
Leroux has wasted no time putting his skills to work.
In August he participated in a Top Gun-style AME skills challenge in downtown Kelowna. Competitors completed three skill testing events from metal bending to riveting, all while racing against each other and the clock. Leroux placed third overall, outperforming technicians who boasted many more years in the industry.
His story is a testament to how quickly a new career can hit the stratosphere when passion, education and opportunity collide.
Globally, Boeing predicts an industry demand for 609,000 aircraft maintenance technicians over the next 20 years, making it the most in-demand occupation in the aviation industry. And locally the demand remains steady.
In the last four years, KF Aerospace has hired more than 30 of Okanagan College’s AME-S graduates (including the entire 2014 class), representing more than a quarter of the company’s AME-S technician labour force.
Those interested in learning more about the AME-S program at Okanagan College can view a video here and attend an info night on Nov. 9, from 6 - 7:30 p.m. at 5650 Aerospace Drive at the Kelowna airport. Participants can meet instructors and tour KF Aerospace.
KF Aerospace is just one of more than 35 exhibitors who will be at the 35th annual Career Fair hosted by Okanagan College on Sunday, Nov. 6., connecting with the community, and in many cases, looking to add to their workforce.
Career Fair also provides would-be students a closer look at Okanagan College and its programs – from aviation to welding, business to nursing, and everything in between. Tours of the newly renovated and expanded Trades Complex – one of the most sustainable buildings of its kind anywhere in the world – will be offered throughout the event which runs from 10:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. at the Kelowna campus.
Anyone interested in finding out about career opportunities or learning more about the education and training needed to achieve lift off in a new career should visit the campus.
New for 2016: the Freshman 15 is a special information session that will cover the top 15 points that parents and students should know before starting post-secondary. The free session begins at 1 p.m. in the Lecture Theatre (S building) and will include time for questions and answers afterward.
Anyone interested in applying for a program at Okanagan College can start the process while at Career Fair and will have the application fee waived. The College will also draw for a $500 tuition waiver for those who enter at the event.