October 2, 2019 by Bill Koenig – Senior Editor, SME Media
MISSISSAUGA, Ontario — Canada needs to do more to support its aerospace industry, a former Quebec premier said today.
Canada “is one of the most important” aerospace countries but faces challenges, Jean Charest said during a wide-ranging address at SME’s CMTS event outside of Toronto.
The country has an aging aerospace workforce and suppliers need to modernize operations, Charest said.
“The average worker is 54 years old,” he added. “If we don’t address this issue on an emergency basis, this industry is going to run into problems.”
With vendors, he said, “A lot of suppliers are good and competent but it takes all they have to deliver their products by the end of the week.” Many suppliers, he said, need to “digitize” operations.
Charest, 61, chaired a group that produced a report earlier this year for the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada. The industry contributes C$25.5 billion to the country’s economy and employs 215,000 people.
The report urged targets of 55,000 new industry jobs by 2025. Among the actions suggested in the report are to “engage government, academia and industry to develop a process and structure that will better facilitate co-op placements, work-integrated learning and training programs across the country based on industry requirements.” It also said the industry should boost training and entice experienced workers to postpone retirement.
Charest is discussing the report’s findings ahead of Canada’s Oct. 21 federal election. Voters will select House of Commons members. The Liberal Party wants to maintain the majority it won in 2015.
The former Quebec premier is promoting aerospace as an issue that should be part of the campaign. Canada’s aerospace industry includes flight simulators and private aircraft.
Canada needs to take action to maintain that position, Charest said in an interview after his talk.
“Our competitors are more aggressive than ever before and we have new competition,” he said. “If we don’t stay on top of our game, we’ll lose ground.”
During his CMTS talk, Charest also addressed global trade tensions, including the U.S.-China trade war.
“This is a trade war very much between China and the United States with very real consequences for the rest of the world,” he said.
Canada is among the nations that may be affected.
“We’re a small nation in terms of population. We trade,” Charest said. “If we don’t have access to markets, we can’t maintain the standard of living we have.”