by Gloria Welton
Tronosjet Maintenance Inc. has been in operation for 20-plus years. With aviation customers around the world, they offer aircraft sales/leasing, aircraft heavy maintenance, and manufacturing. The hangar facility in Slemon Park does large aircraft maintenance overhaul and aircraft training, and an advanced manufacturing facility in Charlottetown has a CNC shop.
“Tronos handles both routine and heavy maintenance on our own fleet and for third parties, and carries out specialist conversion and modification work,” says Mark Coffin, CEO. “We have the most advanced manufacturing facilities in Eastern Canada, including metallic additive manufacturing and research and development for aerospace and CNC machining.”
Company hiring practices and hiring challenges
The two facilities have 32 staff. “When hiring, we look for specific skillsets and licensing. Some specific skillsets required are around additive 3-D printing and design. Licensing must meet the standards of the industry. We also offer extensive training.
“We do not have a lot of turnover. Our staff in Summerside have been with us for an average of 14 years. At the manufacturing facility in Charlottetown, which opened in 2016, staff have been here for an average of five years. We have very specific skillsets that we look for and we work hard to retain our staff.
“With the increasing pressure on wages because of inflation, our wages have become a little less competitive. That is forcing us to do an internal evaluation. We spend a tremendous amount of money on training, so to lose people is a negative.
“Hiring people through immigration streams does not work well for us because once they get here, they are not ready to work for us because they do not have the appropriate certifications or licenses.
“I think it is great to bring in new immigrants, but unfortunately processes are not in place to streamline accreditation in specialized aerospace, medical, or engineering professions. For aircraft maintenance personnel who immigrate to Canada, the transition can be long and arduous.
“We did a campaign in 2021 to attract more aircraft maintenance employees and we had a great response. However, in some cases people who were offered employment could not accept because they could not find adequate housing on PEI. With such low vacancy rates, it is a challenge for people to move and settle on PEI.”
Fred Bergman, Senior Policy Analyst with Atlantic Provincial Economic Council says there are housing shortages across the region, and housing prices have spiked during the pandemic. “Access to affordable housing is important. The province of PEI announced a rent freeze for next year and plans to increase affordable housing by 1,200 units per year, but that number may not
be enough to keep up with population growth. And they may not be able to find enough construction workers to build the housing.”
Strategies for retaining workers
To combat the labour shortage and high inflation, the company focuses on keeping the retention rate low by looking at the needs of staff and what is taking place in the industry. “We offer a competitive salary and benefit package which we monitor continuously.
“We traditionally offer a three percent annual wage increase and a 10 percent RRSP contribution based on gross salary that does not require matching. Employees get all the federal and provincial holidays, and we give ample time off, which seems to be an attractive incentive for people.
“The energy prices for our facilities is a major concern. Our heating costs will go from $50,000 to $150,000 at the Summerside facility. We can’t pass on our increased costs to the customer because this a globally competitive industry. Until other jurisdictions raise their rates, we can’t either. It must be a universal rate increase.
“We are looking at increasing our workforce so we can double up on the work we are doing to increase revenue. Also, on the manufacturing side we are looking at more automation.”
Mark Coffin is a board member of the Atlantic Canada Aerospace and Defence Association (ACADA), representing the interests of the aerospace, defence, and security industries in Atlantic Canada.
ACADA is comprised of approximately 170 industry members and organizations across Atlantic Canada.
Read about Mark’s career journey here.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
about Tronosjet, www.tronosjet.com/splash.html