Vancouver Island’s aerospace industry is about to get a shot in the arm as Boeing has agreed to provide paid internships for Island university students starting next summer.
According to the agreement signed with the University of Victoria, Royal Roads University and Vancouver Island University, one student from each school will be hired by the aerospace giant, starting in the summer of 2014.
The deal is the result of local aerospace consultant Tom McDowell, with some assistance from the provincial government, pulling together the Island’s aerospace stakeholders, post-secondary institutions and senior executives from Boeing.
McDowell, an aerospace veteran who most recently worked on pre-design engineering for Boeing’s 787 and the Airbus A380 aircraft, said the agreement is a great opportunity for the local industry, schools, students and for Boeing.
“I realized the talent on the Island was suitably talent-ready and Boeing itself has a 20-year forecast for 30,000 to 40,000 new planes – that’s about a $4 trillion forecast,” he said with a nod to the aircraft giant’s impending need to expand its workforce. “We are just 150 miles away so I thought there was no harm in approaching them.”
McDowell said for the schools there is an opportunity to get feedback on “how best to design their courses to meet future need, not just regionally but globally.”
And there is an opportunity even within B.C.’s borders as the aerospace sector has been expanding significantly – Victoria’s Viking Air recently sold five Twin Otter aircraft into China while Vancouver’s Avcorp recently signed an $80 million contract extension with Boeing to provide components for five different styles of aircraft.
According to the provincial government, the aerospace industry in B.C. now accounts for more than $2.5 billion in revenue and employs 10,000 people.
McDowell expects the first crop of interns at Boeing will likely be from the engineering and technical disciplines, though he quickly noted Boeing is a massive company involved in innovation across a variety of sectors – from space vehicles to green technology – and could be looking beyond purely technical candidates down the line.
McDowell said there is also a chance this first deal with Boeing could expand as the relationship develops. “Is there a collaborative partnership potential? Absolutely, but what form that takes is still open,” he said.
The process to land a deal with Boeing has helped establish a working group consisting of members of the Island’s aerospace industry.
Langford-based Race Rocks 3-D, which develops simulation and training programs for the defence and aerospace industries, is part of the group. CEO Scott Dewis expects the deal with Boeing will be a huge step in getting the Island’s talents onto Boeing’s radar.
“Race Rocks has had follow up meetings and I know that Boeing is looking at the Vancouver Island region for a number of activities,” he said. “I hope the provincial government will lend its support to Tom’s work and regional business development for the Island’s high-tech and aerospace industries who are looking to join global supply chains such as Boeing.”
Details of the agreement between Boeing and Island universities are still being worked out, but Royal Roads is already looking at it as a step in growing the aerospace sector.
“Our students bring a range of expertise in both theory and practice, which will continue to support the expansion of the aerospace sector in B.C. We applaud Boeing and look to expand on this opportunity as the sector grows and strengthens the connection to the Asia Pacific,” said Cyndi McLeod, Royal Roads University’s vice-president of global advancement, marketing and business development.
Industry veteran McDowell is excited for students.
“There’s a lot of promise for students on the Island. UVic, Royal Roads and Vancouver Island University have a solid series of courses and graduates who will get energized and inspired by the opportunity to go to Seattle and get into this,” he said.
McDowell’s Island aerospace working group put together a display to showcase the Island industry’s capabilities at the Abbotsford Air Show last week. The display will be at the Comox Air Show August 17.