Québec owes a great part of its success in the aerospace industry to the quality of education and training that the province can offer.
Quebec’s education system plays a critical role in the province’s diversified aerospace ecosystem. The province has evolved to offer a range of over a dozen universities, engineering schools, and technical training institutes that provide aerospace education to meet the industry’s growing demands. Each year a total of 1,500 aerospace students graduate from four universities: Concordia University, McGill University, École de Technologie Supérieure (ETS), and École Polytechnique. There are an additional nine technical schools, and two universities that also provide aerospace and relevant engineering education to those seeking to enter the industry. “In Quebec, it is estimated that one worker in 97 possesses an aerospace diploma, 1.5 times higher than the proportion in France and 2.5 higher than in the United States. Many of Quebec’s educational institutions have been established for over a century, helping to build an extensive pool of highly qualified manpower (semi-skilled workers, technicians, engineers, and scientists) and a presence of universities and research centers at the forefront of worldwide innovation,” said Minister of Economic Development, Innovation and Export Trade (MEIE), Jacques Daoust.
Partnerships between industry members and educational institutions are vital for increasing the cluster’s capabilities. PARC, an initiative started by JMJ CEO and entrepreneur MarieChantal Chassé, seeks to add value to various business sectors through the establishment of sharing communities via university-industry collaboration. “We would like to globally interconnect the Aerospace communities forming a network of knowledge that innovates and creates new projects. This collaboration between industries and universities will help connect people while bridging silos and allowing us to share our best practices,” said head of knowledge management at Bombardier and PARC participant Marco Beaulieu.
A research project has already been launched in collaboration with all four OEMs and four educational institutions including McGill, Polytechnique, ETS, and HEC. “The idea of collaboration is critical for the aerospace industry, as it has the ability to accelerate innovation by optimizing the utilization of the industry’s resources,” said Chassé.
An example of this type of collaboration, directed by Pratt and Whitney Canada senior research fellow and Professor Hany Moustapha at ETS, is the Chair Program. ETS places their students within companies to conduct research and work on specific projects in order to gather industry knowledge and experience. The program has enabled a total of thirty undergraduate students to work at Pratt and Whitney Canada on various engine design projects. “This provides them an excellent and unique hands-on experience,” said Moustapha.
In order to ensure that institutions continually evolve to meet industry demands, CAMAQ (Center for Adaptation of the Aerospace Workforce in Quebec), founded in 1978 and supported by the MEIE, works to ensure that schools provide manpower in accordance with the cluster’s needs. CAMAQ conducts annual censuses to forecast the number of workers and type of labor required by aerospace companies. The organization distributes detailed analyses of labor needs to Emploi Quebec and training schools to optimize enrollment. “We do not want to create a surplus of workers who cannot find employment; we want the right amount of people for the right amount of jobs,” explained executive director of CAMAQ, Nathalie Paré.
CAMAQ also works with technical schools to strengthen and maintain Quebec’s skilled technical workforce, and has established the École des Métiers de L’Aerospatiale (EMAM), a technical trade school, to which they provide active guidance. “Every year we invite representatives from the industry to evaluate the programs so that we know the processes and parts being used line up with what is currently being used in the actual industry,” said Paré.
In line with this trend of partnership and collaborative evolution, École des Hautes Etudes (HEC) has developed a Global Supply Chain Management program to train managers and address an important industry challenge. “One of the major issues faced by OEMs today is the management of subcontractors and the supply chain, which often causes delays. The chain is complex, and OEMs have to work with tier-one, tier-two, and tier-three companies to deliver on time,” said HEC professor, Jacques Roy.
In light of globalization, companies need to strengthen their expertise in supply chain management to remain competitive. “OEMs need their suppliers to deliver 100% on time. While this was not as important 10 years ago, today timing is crucial and this shift in mindset has created a new and pressing need,” said general manager of Thyssenkrupp Aerospace, Stephane Roche.
HEC places its students within OEMs including PW&C and Bombardier to conduct interviews, benchmark, and examine best practices around the world. These students are often hired after completion of their programs to implement improvements. HEC is also working to launch a specialized micro-program within their greater MBA degree that is focused specifically on aerospace management.
Through close university-industry ties of this kind, students and professors are able to identify industry challenges and tailor programs and research accordingly to produce a world-class aerospace workforce. It is this type of collaboration that sets Quebec apart from its competitors. As Professor Moustapha emphasized: “Beyond the technologies coming out of Quebec’s aerospace cluster, the high quality of our employees also solidifies our standing in the international aerospace industry.”
Quebec’s continued dedication to educating its next generation of aerospace workers will allow it to remain competitive internationally for years to come.