École Nationale d’Aérotechnique

By Claude La Freniere
A Unique Flagship in North America for Aerotechnics Training.
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ÉNA: A Future Choice for a Promising Career in Aerotechnics

During the recent “AéroSalon 2024” (Montreal Air Show), which took place under the theme of 'the next generation in the world of aerotechnical professions', organized by the “École nationale d’Aérotechnique” (ÉNA), we had the chance to visit this unique school in North America and to interview its General Director, Mr. Pascal Désilet.

Affiliated with Cégep Édouard-Montpetit, ÉNA is the largest public college teaching institution in aerotechnics in the world. Quebec, Canadian, and international industries draw their technical workforce specialized in aircraft maintenance, avionics, and aerospace engineering from ÉNA. The school also ensures the development of technical personnel in these sectors. The main challenges that ÉNA will face over the coming years include an aging workforce, sector growth, evolving technologies, training and certification, and student attraction and retention.
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ÉNA: A Benchmark in Aeronautical Training

A pioneer in aerospace technical training, ÉNA stands out as the only institution in Quebec to train aeronautical technicians. With a capacity of nearly 1500 students in regular education and several hundred technicians in continuing education, ÉNA meets the growing needs of the aeronautics industry for qualified labor.

Programs Recognized by Transport Canada:

• Aircraft Maintenance Techniques

• Avionics Techniques (including the DEC-BAC in Avionics)

• Aerospace Engineering Techniques (including the DEC-BAC in Aerospace Engineering)
These programs provide comprehensive, balanced training that combines theory and practice, equipping graduates with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in their field.

Unique Partnership with Canadian National Defense

ÉNA is one of the few schools authorized to train the military in aircraft maintenance. This collaboration demonstrates the recognition of ÉNA’s expertise and know-how in aeronautical training.
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Enriched Learning Experience

ÉNA emphasizes experiential learning by offering students unique opportunities such as:

• Work-Study Program: Allows students to alternate between courses and work periods in a real workplace.

• Work Placements: Offer students the opportunity to gain valuable practical experience within companies in the aeronautical sector in Canada or internationally.
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ÉNA: A Springboard Towards a Successful Career

ÉNA prepares its graduates to occupy major positions in the aeronautics industry through its rigorous programs and educational approach focused on practical experience. ÉNA alumni are recognized for their expertise, technical skills, and ability to adapt to the demands of a constantly evolving field.
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Facilities and Equipment of ÉNA

A State-of-the-Art Learning Environment

ÉNA stands out for its state-of-the-art facilities and equipment valued at 110 million Canadian dollars. This exceptional infrastructure offers students a learning environment conducive to acquiring high-level practical and theoretical skills.

An Impressive Aerial Park

At the heart of ÉNA, six hangars house a fleet of 38 aircraft, including 27 planes and 11 helicopters. These devices, mostly donations from government organizations and private companies, are used for training purposes, allowing students to familiarize themselves with the most recent technologies in the aeronautical industry.
State-of-the-Art Laboratories

ÉNA has a full range of laboratories equipped with cutting-edge equipment, including:
• Real and virtual test benches
• Wind tunnels
• Flight simulators
• Avionics laboratories
• Composites laboratories
• Structural repair laboratories
• Machine shops
• Quality control laboratories
• Computer-aided design and manufacturing laboratories
• Sheet metal laboratories
• Instrumentation laboratories

A Unique Program to Favor French-Speaking Students

A new program allows Canadian students who cannot receive training in French in their province to study at ÉNA at the same price as a Quebec student.
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During our visit to the school, we had the chance to have an interview with Pascal Désilet, Director General of the “École Nationale d’Aérotechnique (ENA)” (National School of Aerotechnics), of Québec.
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First question, what are the main challenges facing the aviation sector in terms of shortage of qualified labor in Canada, and what are the roles and skills most in demand currently?

The aviation sector faces a serious shortage of qualified technicians in aircraft maintenance, avionics and aerospace engineering. The “École Nationale d’Aérotechnique (ÉNA)” trains around 900 students per year, but can accommodate up to 1,500. We organize recruitment activities, because students find jobs before finishing their studies. Trades in aircraft maintenance and avionics are governed by Transport Canada, making the training essential to obtain a Transport Canada license, unique in Quebec. Our goal is to train more professionals to meet the needs of the industry.

With aviation technology rapidly evolving, what skills will be most in demand, and how is your school adapting its programs to the changing needs of the industry?

We are fortunate to have the Aerospace Technology Center, which allows us to stay at the forefront of technology through research projects with industry. We work on new technologies, integrate them into continuing education and then incorporate them into our programs. For example, we are focused on the electrification of aviation with electric and hybrid engines, and are already seeing projects undergoing certification. Our professors and students participate in this research, which allows us to teach it and integrate it into our programs.

How does your school collaborate with the aviation industry to ensure training programs meet current and future market demands? Can you give concrete examples of partnerships with the private sector?

We have an advisory committee, governed by Transport Canada, with business representatives. We meet twice a year to discuss our programs and identify needed improvements. We have partnerships for continuing education and research projects, such as non-destructive testing of parts with ultrasound and thermography systems, and automation with Pratt & Whitney. Our students use these technologies through our updated labs. The committee, with members from Air Canada, Bombardier and Air Transat to name a few, helps us guide our programs. We also receive donations of equipment, allowing our teachers to follow training on new technologies and integrate them into teaching.

Is your institution taking initiatives to attract and retain students in aviation technology programs, despite strong competition for talent and how do you manage the challenges of attracting and retaining women and minorities in this sector?

In our quest for excellence, we are still exploiting the potential of our school. The objective is clear: fill the establishment's benches and fuel the industry. We still have places available, an opportunity that we seize by organizing large-scale events such as the air show, attracting around 20,000 enthusiasts each edition.

This Friday during our aero discovery day, we welcome 400 young people from secondary schools to present to them the multiple career prospects in the world of aviation. But our influence is not limited to our walls, because we collaborate with regional companies to promote our programs throughout Quebec. For example, Canadian Helicopters is our ambassador in Baie-Comeau.

We Implement targeted initiatives to attract underrepresented groups, such as women and increase their participation in the workforce. To attract them, we are increasing presentations in schools and using social media to attract more students, especially girls and minority people. Our efforts have paid off, with a 50% increase in female registrations last year, from 10% to 15%. We now aim to increase them to 30% within five years, an ambition supported by our dedicated initiatives.

What is the retention rate of your school's students once they begin the program, and how many manage to successfully complete and obtain the qualifications needed to enter the aviation field?

We face the same challenges as other technical programs, with approximately 50% of students completing the program. However, our goal is to guide them through this critical first step. Our challenge is to get them from first to second year, that's where we have to work a lot.

We offer financial support thanks to the Cégep foundation and additional support from the Adapted Services Center. By providing resources such as computers and additional time for exams, we seek to support their success. Additionally, we facilitate industry internships to provide stimulating hands-on experience.

For example, at CTA, our research center, several students complete paid internships each year. Ultimately, our efforts pay off with a 100% employability rate even before graduation. Additionally, during our career day, prestigious companies such as Bombardier, NAV Canada, Airbus and Field Aviation come to recruit our students, illustrating our commitment to their professional success.

In conclusion, could you provide us with an assessment of the needs for qualified labor in the field of aviation for the next 5 to 10 years, both in Quebec and in Canada?

The Aerospace Sectoral Workforce Committee (CAMAQ) conducts annual surveys to assess the needs of companies. For the next 10 years, approximately 40,000 jobs will be available in Quebec alone, while currently, approximately 42,000 people work in the aerospace sector. We therefore anticipate a need for 40,000 additional employees just in Québec. The career opportunities are therefore considerable, and our priority is to fill our programs to meet this growing demand.

(Author’s note: If we apply the same calculation for Canada as a whole, more than 155,000 people will have to be added to the aviation sector in Canada in the coming years.)

We have also implemented programs to attract immigrants and have seen an increase in international student enrollment with programs for recognition of prior learning and additional training. Around 10 to 13% of our students are international, particularly from France and Morocco.

In addition, a new program allows Canadian students who cannot receive training in French in their province to come and study here at the same price as a Quebec student. We are starting to receive French-speaking students from Ontario and New Brunswick, which opens up new opportunities.

In short, we strive to meet the needs of the aviation sector by developing a qualified and diverse workforce.