Graduates are all set to take off
- By NC Raine | July 19, 2023
New heights are being reached for current and future students of the Aircraft Maintenance Engineering program at the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies (SIIT) including recent graduate Dominic Worme.
The 20-year-old from Kawacatoose First Nation said the program gave him more than he expected.
“It was really interesting to learn about aviation, how everything works, all the systems,” said Worme. “It gives you knowledge and lets you do things you never thought you’d do.”
The two-year program, delivered at the Saskatoon Aviation Learning Centre provides students with the knowledge and skills required to maintain, repair, and overhaul aircraft in accordance with Transport Canada’s safety standards.
“It’s a bit sad that it’s now done, to be honest,” said Worme. “Just the relationships you build with your classmates and the fun you had in the hangar. I think we’ll all miss it.”
The course challenged him, as he held down a full-time job as a ramp lead at Executive Aviation, while being a full-time student, but he rose to the occasion.
The weekly tests were tough, but the environment created by SIIT made him always feel supported.
“The program heads were all First Nation, and they would talk to you a lot about culture, or tell stories, or even tell us a Cree word,” said Worme. “It felt like being in my community. People there reminded me of people back in my home reserve. It made it easier to settle in.”
What drew him to choose this career path was being able to obtain his license which means he can work anywhere and see the world.
The sky is the limit for Worme.
He’s currently trying to decide between joining the air force or working in Saskatchewan, but either way, he knows when he starts his career in aircraft maintenance, he’ll be ready.
“They really emphasize that they don’t want to send out people who don’t know exactly what they’re doing,” said Worme. “They make sure you’re ready to work on your first day on the job.”
The success of this program, now in its twelfth year, is overwhelmingly high.
“Around 70-to-90 per cent of our graduates every year are finding employment after convocation,” said Jon McEvoy, Program Head at SIIT. “Sometimes those rates are even higher.”
He contributes much of the program’s success rates to a thorough immersion into, not only the foundational knowledge behind aircraft engineering, but the practical knowledge derived from many hours of hands-on training.
The goal is to have the students ready to work from their first day on the job, said McEvoy.
Another contributing factor is the emphasis put on the student’s culture and identity.
“Students often come into the program with anxieties about being away from their home, their communities, and their support systems,” said McEvoy. “So, what we do is try to provide them with cultural supports, including having Elders available to them anytime they need.”
Earlier this year, the federal government announced a $1-million support for the SIIT Aircraft Maintenance Engineering program.
The funding will go towards the development and delivery of a preparation program to remove barriers and create pathways toward licensing for Indigenous people and women entering the industry. It will also be used to help build the capacity to introduce an Avionic program and update the classroom. The renovations will mean the number of seats in the current program will double so instead of 18 students there will be room for 36.
One way SIIT recruits candidates is by hosting summer innovation camps on First Nations as a way to engage youth in science and technology. Past camps had youth flying the SIIT aircraft simulator and working on a Robinson helicopter.