A newly fast-tracked immigration program to fill the transportation Canada jobs shortage fails to account for the worker shortfall in aviation, say members of the 11,000-strong Air Line Pilots Association.
Changes to Canada’s Express Entry system in May launched the category-based selection, which allows a quicker path for immigration for workers with expertise in 82 occupations within key economic industries.
Of the six occupational categories included within this new system, pilots fall under the “transport occupations” distinction.
Although Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has intended for this system to fill labor market shortfalls, President of the Air Lines Pilots Association’s Canadian chapter Tim Perry says that the recent changes to the country’s Express Entry system may offer a temporary fix but will still be nothing more than a “band-aid” solution to the lack of flight crew.
He is thus calling on Ottawa and key industry leaders to train more pilots and make the career more attractive, as a shortage is evident in cases across the country; in northern Ontario, for example, president and CEO of Perimeter Aviation – which owns Bearskin Airlines – claims that not many pilots want to work in the region.
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Small carriers such as Perimeter have thus been pitted against larger carriers such as Air Canada and Westjet to attract the small number of pilots.
This, as per CBC reporting, has posed challenges.
“COVID seems to have caused a lot of the older pilots to leave the industry and what that has done is brought up pilots a little bit earlier into the major airlines than we’ve typically seen in the past,” said Perimeter Aviation president and CEO Joey Petrisor.
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“We’re short today, somewhere around 5,000 pilots to fill the roles that we need to have filled in Canadian aviation,” asserted John Gradek, lecturer and co-ordinator with the Aviation Management program at McGill University.
This has caused pilots to ignore smaller airlines and go directly to the big names for big money – in both Canada and abroad.
It was reported earlier this month by CBC, for example, that three times more Canadian pilots left for jobs in the U.S. last year. This jump, from 39 applying for an American license in 2021 to 147 applying for one in 2022, was documented in official Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) data.
Pilots are witnessing historic wage increase in the U.S, which is putting additional pressure on Canadian airlines during negotiations with their pilots – especially as Air Canada contract with its pilots expires on September 29.
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Air Canada has already faced issues with pilot shortages within its infrastructure; not even a month ago, it slashed six major routes out of Calgary for this winter – including to Los Angeles, Ottawa, and Halifax – partly due to a shortage that it claims threatens its “overall operational stability.”
“The industry-wide shortage of regional pilots is expected to have a prolonged impact on Air Canada’s regional network,” said Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick.
“This has resulted in resource pressures as Air Canada has been required to operate certain routes with mainline aircraft that are normally served by its main regional partner.”
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