Aerospace education in Calgary receives $4M infusion from feds

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The federal government is investing $4 million into Alberta’s growing aerospace industry, focusing on two projects at Calgary post-secondary institutions that will aid budding businesses in the sector.

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Dan Vandal, the minister responsible for the federal Prairies Economic Development portfolio, detailed the funding at the University of Calgary’s Schulich School of Engineering on Monday.

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A total of $2.5 million will go to U of C to open an Aerospace Innovation Hub, which will support startups and existing small- and medium-sized aerospace businesses. Another $1.4 million will go to the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology for its new remotely piloted aviation training centre, which will train and certify students to operate and maintain heavy-lift drones.

“Today’s announcement underscores the value that our government sees in Alberta’s aerospace sector. It’s a pillar of the Canadian economy,” said Vandal. “Calgary, in particular, is solidifying its place at the heart of Canada’s leadership in aerospace. It is gaining a global reputation for having world-leading expertise and world-leading capabilities.”

The investment added to recently boosts the local aerospace industry has seen from larger companies such as WestJet, which made Calgary its home base and global connecting hub last October, and de Havilland, which last September announced a sprawling campus to be built east of the city . The new federal funding will focus on supporting the province’s smaller aerospace businesses, which officials noted as important innovators in the sector.

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And Vandals, George Chahal
PrairiesCan Minister Dan Vandal and Calgary-Skyview MP George Chahal speak with University of Calgary engineering students at Monday’s announcement. Gavin Young/Postmedia

“These are the people who actually need to have their heads in the clouds as they work to help fill the growing demand for skilled workers in aerospace, as well as innovate behind the scenes to improve success rates for startups,” said Calgary Skyview MP George Chahal. “Their work translates into creating and supporting the jobs of thousands of Albertans.”

Vandal said the funding would create roughly 100 jobs in Calgary and help train upwards of 160 people for in-demand work in the field.

“Investments like these are assisting businesses to access the talent, the technology and the resources they need to bring Alberta-made innovations to new domestic and to new global markets,” said Vandal.

Jordan Cicoria, the president and CEO of Calgary-based drone company AERIUM Analytics, said the city is home to several aerospace companies, specifically noting multiple local drone-focused businesses. U of C’s Aerospace Innovation Hub will prove a useful tool both for startups that are strapped for cash in the early days — providing access to otherwise out-of-reach equipment and technology — as well as established businesses, he said.

“I wish this innovation hub was around when we first started AERIUM. It would’ve allowed us to accelerate our development more rapidly,” he said. “Working with organizations like the university and the Aerospace Innovation Hub will allow companies such as themselves to allocate our limited resources to the part that matters most — our people — by helping us with (research and development) and access to those technologies.”

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Twitter: @michaelrdrguez