Helping the Aerospace Industry Take Flight

Ontario Aerospace Council

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Established in 1993, the Ontario Aerospace Council (OAC) is a not-for-profit organization comprising over 200 member companies representing more than 70 percent of the Ontario aerospace industry employment base. These member companies represent the full gamut of a diverse and flourishing industry. The sector in Ontario boasts annual revenues over $6B CDN.
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Any Ontario company or organization involved in the province’s aerospace industry is welcome to take part in the collaborative effort. “Everything from design through to MRO (maintenance, repair, and overhaul) is represented in our membership,” says Executive Director Moira Harvey. This includes OEMs, large companies and SMEs in aircraft manufacturing (Tiers 1–4); UAS/UAVs; maintenance, repair and overhaul; ground-based infrastructure; and space. Ontario based organizations that do business with the aerospace industry are also invited to become members, from financial institutions and universities to research centres and business consultants.

OAC works with all of these industry stakeholders to gather and share industry intelligence, identify and facilitate funding, and be an active catalyst for industry growth. “Really, what we are all about is enhancing the recognition of Ontario’s aerospace capabilities as a leader in global markets, and working with business leaders and government stakeholders to build greater expertise and continued growth and prosperity,” Ms. Harvey summarizes.

By working collectively and collaboratively with members—as well as in partnership with provincial and federal governments—OAC is able to define and implement strategic member programs, initiatives, and events.

Member programs cover a wide range of industry needs, from technology development and takeup to supply chain relationships and readiness, as well as skills development and workplace training. “If there is a need that is identified within the membership, or the sector, we will work with the government and our community to find a way to address that need,” Ms. Harvey explains.

For example, the association is currently working in partnership with the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Growth to deliver an industry-led, industry-defined training program. Funded in part by the Ontario Government Youth Skills Development Initiative, the program provides on the job training so that young people between the ages of 18 and 29 who are unemployed or underemployed can find good jobs that lead to meaningful careers. “We are delighted that we have been able to attract young people to the aerospace industry, keeping that pipeline full.”

Students receive classroom training by industry experts as well as hands-on shop floor training within participating companies. “The curriculum was developed with input from industry,” Ms. Harvey says. As a result, the program accurately addresses industry needs, benefitting both the participating companies and the students.

OAC events take a number of different forms, from breakfast seminars to all-day workshops. The association hosts a research and technology (R&T) day each year to promote and broaden research collaboration between industry and academia. “It gives academia, funders and industry a chance to connect and understand what capabilities the universities and colleges have and the opportunities for collaborative R&T.” The goal is to facilitate projects that will “ultimately go to commercialization and hopefully find their way onto an aircraft.”

The R&T day is part of OAC’s Beyond the Barriers initiative, which seeks to build a collaborative Aerospace R&T community in Ontario and encourage the engagement and participation of all stakeholders. “We have a huge number of SMEs in Ontario with a fantastic mix of skills and technologies that we really want to capitalize on. This program is one way to get more companies involved in formal R&T, as it can be very challenging for an SME to dedicate resources (both human and financial) for an R&T project,” Ms. Harvey explains.

“One of the things that we do with our Beyond the Barriers R&T initiative is really get the community engaged with each other. It is much easier if people know whom they are talking to, [especially] when there is intellectual property involved. It is good if you have that network because then there is a higher comfort level in discussing various projects and ideas.”

Our Beyond the Barriers initiative also educates companies on the ins and outs of R&T, “so they can make educated decisions as to how to get involved and have a greater understanding of what the benefits are.” OAC offers a variety of seminars on R&T related subject matter, from dealing with tax credits to intellectual property issues—“things that are really giving [participants] a toolbox to enable them to better answer the needs of the marketplace.”

Show Me the Money is a funding seminar held several times a year to help people connect with capital for aerospace programs in Ontario and throughout Canada. MRO (Maintenance, Repair & Overhaul) Day brings the sector together for discussion and education on current industry issues. “Companies have an opportunity to get together and discuss and learn more about the issues facing that particular segment of the market,” Ms. Harvey explains. “We have expert speakers and panels that come in to share their experiences and provide that network of resources that enables companies to go forward.”

The Annual General Meeting (AGM)/Aerospace Unplugged is one of OAC’s most anticipated upcoming events. Taking place October 25th at the Toronto Congress Centre, the conference features some of the industry’s most well-known analysts. “We are bringing in some key gurus of the global aerospace industry together here in Ontario for the first time. These very prestigious and renowned speakers will provide their respective views of the current state of the industry and what they see going forward.” After the formal presentations, attendees will have an opportunity to participate in Q & A sessions, providing a rare chance to dialogue with leading industry analysts. “We are giving our community the opportunity to meet with these respected thought-leaders and to learn from them.”

Industry leaders speaking at AGM Aerospace Unplugged include Richard Aboulafia, Vice President of Teal Group; Kevin Michaels, President of Aerodynamic Advisory; Ron Epstein, Senior Equity Analyst for Bank of America, Merrill Lynch; and Peter Hall, Vice-President & Chief Economist of Export Development Canada. “Bringing all these experts together on one panel here in Ontario is a first for us,” Ms. Harvey points out. “It should be a really exciting and informative day.”

OAC’s national counterpart and partner, Aerospace Industries Association of Canada (AIAC), publishes a comprehensive state of the industry report in collaboration with the Government of Canada—and the outlook looks positive. “It is a good news story,” Ms. Harvey summarizes. “The industry is doing very well. There are a lot of good things going on. We have a lot of programs currently in the industry that are past the development stage and going to full scale production, or [programs where] production is ramping up.”

As a general rule, Ontario aerospace companies are growing successfully, both domestically and beyond Canada’s borders. “It really is a global industry and we see Ontario companies expanding beyond the province to establish an international presence close to their customers.” These new opportunities bring new challenges—but nothing that the Ontario industry cannot meet. “These are exciting times [because] the industry is ramping up production rates and the supply chain has to respond quickly. It is a challenge of the best kind, bringing with it amazing opportunity.” The aerospace industry cannot afford to make any mistakes when it comes to safety, so quality is always a particularly pressing issue when new programs and new technology come into play.

MRO is a sector with especially bright opportunities in the future. With so many new programs on the agenda and new aircraft being built, there will be plenty of maintenance work for many years to come. “Those aircraft are going to be out there for a long time.” Low oil prices have also given the industry a boost and created new opportunities for a variety of sectors. Clean Sky and Green initiatives also offer much opportunity for growth of the sector here in Ontario.

OAC is eager to help its members take advantage of all emerging opportunities. “We are committed to supporting our companies, whether it is with training, or building their toolbox for R&T, or growing their networks and giving them a global presence,” Ms. Harvey summarizes. “We would like to continue that growth and make sure that Ontario companies retain and expand their place on the world stage.”

May 26, 2017, 11:02 AM EDT

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