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Nolinor Aviation holds an open house with a difference in an effort to “open some eyes” in an increasingly competitive job market.
FRÉDÉRIC TOMESCO, Montreal Gazette, September 5, 2019
Talk about hopping the extra mile.
On Saturday morning, Quebec charter-flight operator Nolinor Aviation will fly South Shore job seekers from St-Hubert airport to Mirabel — and back — as part of an “open house day” aimed at filling more than 20 aircraft mechanic positions.
The company is hoping the short trip to the lower Laurentians aboard one of its Boeing 737 jets, as well as on-site discussions with employees and recruiters, will make it stand out in an increasingly competitive job market.
“Maybe it’ll open some eyes,” Marco Prud’homme, a vice-president of the company, said a telephone interview. “It’s a 20-minute flight. If this was a straight line it would be even faster, but we’ll have to go around the island of Montreal because of the air traffic in and out of Dorval.”
Such are the lengths that some employers feel compelled to go to in a bid to recruit staff in Quebec, where the unemployment rate continues to set record lows.
That labour shortage you keep reading about? It’s a reality for Nolinor.
“This summer we had to refuse several contracts because we simply did not have the personnel to operate flights,” Prud’homme said.
Founded in 1992, family-owned Nolinor has carved out a niche by running ferry flights for mining companies to some of Canada’s most remote regions.
As part of a 10-year contract with gold miner Agnico Eagle, it links Montreal to Val d’Or and company mines in Nunavut, operating same-day, round-trip flights several times a week.
Nolinor also runs charter flights for sports franchises such as the Montreal Alouettes and the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League, as well as the Laval Rocket, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Canadiens.
Besides the aircraft mechanic positions, Nolinor wants to fill dozens of ground and administrative jobs that haven’t even been advertised yet, Prud’homme said. Wages for mechanics fresh out of school start at about $18.50 an hour, plus benefits.
This is the second open house day that Nolinor is conducting this year. About two months ago, company recruiters hosted 120 candidates in Mirabel, filling about 20 flight attendant positions.
“There’s a lot of poaching going on in the industry,” Prud’homme said. “Just today, we had one pilot leave us. For a young person that wants to work in air transport, now is a great time. Companies like Sunwing Airlines, Air Transat and Air Canada are hiring a lot, whether you’re a co-pilot or a mechanic. We’re sort of in the middle of the food chain here.”
Mirabel-based Nolinor now has about 220 employees. Current job openings also include crew schedulers, flight attendants and pilots, according to the company’s website.
Nolinor’s drive to recruit pilots is facing global competition. According to a 2018 forecast by Montreal-based flight-simulator maker CAE, airlines will need to hire more than 270,000 pilots over the next decade amid an expected doubling in passenger travel.
Canadian regulations on crew fatigue and pilot flight times are also having an impact on staffing plans. Prud’homme estimates his company will need as much as 35 per cent more staff to meet the new rules, which are due to take effect by the end of the year.
“When everyone needs to hire at the same time, it’s a problem,” he says.
Nolinor’s business has benefited from a mad scramble among carriers such as Canada’s Sunwing for spare aircraft following the crash of two Boeing 737 Max jets in Indonesia and Ethiopia.
With transportation authorities worldwide ordering the grounding of all 737 Max jets, Sunwing — a Max operator — hired Nolinor to perform replacement flights between Toronto and the Caribbean.
“After the 737 Max crisis, we became swamped,” Prud’homme said.
And although Nolinor’s contract with Sunwing is set to expire next week, the executive isn’t convinced the relationship will end there.
“People are talking about a return to service of the Max in the coming months, but who can really say that with confidence?” he asked. “Maybe we’ll end up doing other flights for Sunwing for the Christmas season.”