Bringing On Their A-Game

Mar 31 2014

Aircraft maintenance is what AMU magazine is about. Readers of AMU are typically those of us involved in the industry, one way or another. Most who read this publication are proud to be involved in this industry (most of the time) and would like to do whatever we can to ensure that our safety record continues to improve. One approach to ensuring the safety of the flying public is to help develop the talents of the youth who have chosen to become involved in this industry. With that in mind, I would like to introduce you to a set of competitions that focuses on developing “the best of the best”.

Every year, young people from elementary, secondary and post-secondary programs from schools across Canada gather at regional/provincial skills competitions. These students vie against other youth in their respective skilled trades or technologies, with the opportunity for winners to move on to national, and even international, competitions. Aircraft Maintenance is one of the hotly contested fields. It is classified as a post-secondary competition and, as such, students who are enrolled in Aircraft Maintenance Basic Training courses in community colleges can apply to compete in their respective regional/provincial competitions. The winners may advance to the Skills Canada National Competition (SCNC), which this year will be staged June 4-7 at the International Centre in Toronto. Those who emerge victorious at the national level will then be invited to challenge at the 2015 WorldSkills International competition in São Paulo, Brazil.

One of the provincial qualifier competitions is the Skills Canada-Ontario OTSC (Ontario Technological Skills Competition). This competition is typically held every spring at the RIM Park/Manulife Financial Sportsplex in Kitchener, Waterloo. OTSC is the largest of the regional skills contests in Canada, bringing together some 1,900 competitors in over 60 individual skilled trade categories. The Aircraft Maintenance competition (first introduced to this competition in 2003) typically draws six to eight students each year who are currently enrolled in an Aircraft Maintenance program at any of Ontario’s many fine post-secondary education facilities. This year, two participants from each of four community colleges were enrolled in the competition. The participating schools were Canadore, Centennial, Confederation, and Mohawk colleges.

The Aircraft Maintenance contest consists of five typical aircraft maintenance tasks such as magneto timing, sheet metal repair, aircraft inspection, a weight and balance report, and air regulations. In a somewhat different twist, the contest also includes a job interview with a professional HR representative, complete with resume submission. Industry volunteers grade each of the individual contests. The results are tabulated by the technical chair(s) and confirmed by each volunteer expert. When all is said and done, a winner is announced. The winner of the Ontario Aircraft Maintenance Competition is, of course, then invited to the national Skills Canada competition to compete against their counterpart winners from the other regional/provincial competitions.

The participants in these contests are the “cream of the crop” in their respective industry and are typically very motivated youth. It is these ladies and gentlemen who will be the future of the aircraft maintenance industry in Canada. I had the pleasure of instructing Ryan Gomes (Bronze medalist, 2011 WorldSkills International in London, England) when he was a student at Centennial College. During his time there it was evident he would have a very bright future in the aviation industry. Ryan finished third at the London competition after winning the Ontario and Canada Skills contests in 2010, and is now very happy to have chosen aircraft maintenance as a career, even though he originally planned to study automotive mechanics.

“I would like to encourage any young person who qualifies for this contest to give it a try,” said Mr. Gomes. “It is a lot of work but a very rewarding experience …you learn so much when you participate in a skills competition at any level, the people you meet both personally and professionally are awesome. I would like to thank all the people who helped me prepare for the WorldSkills competition.”

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