With local, national and global demand for aircraft maintenance engineers (AME) soaring, Okanagan College is working with its industry partners to train the next generation of skilled technicians.
For area students that means significant career opportunities with companies such as KF Aerospace, one of the region’s largest employers (over the past four years, the company has hired every student to successfully complete the college’s AME Structures program). Among those alumni is 2014 grad Michelle Hanry.
“Getting hired straight after graduation and working for KF for the last three years has been an amazing experience,” said Hanry. “I have learned a lot from the senior structural engineers. KF’s growth and involvement in numerous contracts that require a variety of maintenance experience allow new apprentices to ease into the work and grow their skills quickly.”
An open house on Wednesday, co-hosted by Okanagan College and KF Aerospace in Kelowna, aims to open students’ eyes to the training and job opportunities in their flight path in both the College’s Structures (S) and Maintenance (M) programs.
“The industry demand is still so strong that even after a national search and hiring the entire class from the new November intake, we’re still looking for 30 more employees,” said Grant Stevens, director of human resources for KF Aerospace. “KF has been on quite the expansion and in the last 10 years has built three new hangars and tripled the floor space and the number of aircraft — staffing growth is our No. 1 obstacle to expansion.”
Those looking to train for careers as aircraft maintenance engineers can choose from two offerings at the college — the Maintenance or M-Licence program, which covers everything from engines to electrical components in fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters, or the Structures (S-Licence) program, which covers the fabrication, assembly, installation, and repair of an aircraft’s structure.
The 62-week (approximately 15 months) M-Licence program is offered in partnership with Northern Lights College (NLC) in Dawson Creek. The first 48 weeks of training take place at Okanagan College Aerospace Campus in Vernon. The final 14 weeks of training take place at Northern Lights College in Dawson Creek.
The 37-week (approximately nine months) S-Licence program operates out of the college’s Aerospace Campus in Kelowna. Students train steps away from KF Aerospace’s cutting-edge hangars and have opportunities to tour, meet and speak to KF’s experienced AME-S technicians and apprentices — many of whom are OC alumni.
“Aircraft maintenance engineers, both M and S streams, have always been some of the most sought-after workers in aviation,” said Steve Moores, dean of trades and apprenticeship at Okanagan College. “To help address the demand locally, the college opened an additional intake last November with support from KF Aerospace and the Industry Training Authority and we look forward to continuing to work together to address the demand.”
The open house starts at 6 p.m. Wednesday at OC’s aerospace campus adjacent to KF Aerospace’s hangars at the Kelowna International Airport. It will provide prospective students with a chance to learn about both programs while also learning about job prospects and career paths in the aviation industry. Attendance is free and open to the public.
More information about the college’s AME programs and the upcoming open house is available at www.okanagan.bc.ca/ame.