Demand for workers by KF Aerospace has prompted Okanagan College to expand its aircraft maintenance program.—KF Aerospace.

Okanagan College expands aircraft maintenance program

Demand from industry prompts Kelowna college to add student spaces

A large expansion in the local aircraft industry and national unmet staffing demands has fueled Okanagan College to offer an additional intake of its aircraft maintenance engineering structures program this fall.

Starting on Nov. 14, the program will see up to 12 students step into KF Aerospace’s shop space at the Kelowna International Airport to begin training for one of the region’s most in-demand careers. Thanks to an accelerated 37-week program, students will be ready to enter the workforce by August.

“Aircraft maintenance engineer structural technicians (AME-S) have always been one of the most sought-after specialists in aviation,” said Steve Moores, dean of trades and apprenticeship at Okanagan College. “With the industry growth and the number of retiring aircraft engineers, we knew it would only be a matter of time before the demand became a big obstacle for local and national employers.”

“In the last 10 years, we’ve built three new hangars in Kelowna and tripled the floor space and the number of aircraft of which we can do heavy maintenance on,” added Grant Stevens, director of human resources for KF Aerospace. “The number one staffing shortage we have is for AME-S—we just can’t hire trained technicians fast enough.”

Not only is there a local demand, there is also a nation-wide demand. Aircraft maker Boeing predicts a global industry need for 609,000 aircraft maintenance technicians over the next 20 years, making it the most in-demand occupation in the aviation industry.

After searching for, and hiring, 60 AMEs from various trades schools throughout Canada, KF Aerospace still came up short on staffing and currently has 40 openings for structural technicians. Looking for a solution, KF Aerospace approached Okanagan College earlier this summer, setting the wheels in motion for launching the new class.

“KF is supporting this new intake of students through additional space in their hangars, tools, equipment, work benches, office space and more,” said Moores. “Over the past five years our partnership has been amazing and this just adds to it.”

“Our commitment to Okanagan College and the AME programs is to hire a minimum of half the graduating class, however the last three years straight we’ve hired every single graduating student,” said Stevens.

This year will be no different as KF anticipates hiring the entire 12-person class. Conditional upon graduating, students will be interviewed and offered jobs in July 2018, a month before the program is even finished.

“Alongside OC, we hold open houses before each program intake to show prospective students what the workplace looks like, the type of work they’ll be doing, job openings, advancement opportunities as well as what benefit and salary structures look like. We’re very open with what OC graduates can expect from KF Aerospace,” said Stevens.

The next open house is scheduled for Sept. 20 at 6 p.m. at KF Aerospace’s location at the Kelowna Airport. It will equip prospective students with the knowledge and resources to enrol in the program and to make a successful career in the aviation industry. Attendance is free and open to the public.

For more information on the aircraft maintenance engineering structures program and upcoming open houses, please visit www.okanagan.bc.ca/ame

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